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Palace welcomes Australia's help in training AFP troops

31 August 2017

Philippines on Wednesday welcomed Australia's offer to train government troops to fight against Daesh terror acts, .

Clashes between Philippine security forces and the insurgents have claimed more than 600 lives.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says she made the offer of additional assistance to the Philippines when she met with President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila earlier this month.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the assistance will be limited to "technical matters, training and information sharing".

"It will not involve any boots on the ground in accordance to our law prohibiting the direct participation of foreign troops in combat operations", he said.

Palace welcomes Australia's help in training AFP troops
Palace welcomes Australia's help in training AFP troops

The Philippine forces are now fighting IS-linked militants aiming to occupy Marawi City.

Australia is part of a coalition fighting the ISIS, with 780 defence personnel based in the Middle East.

Similar assistance will now be given to the Philippines.

"The Philippines has in many occasions expressed its willingness to receive assistance from foreign countries if they offer it", Abella added.

United States specials forces are covertly providing support for the Philippine troops in Marawi.

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The fighting, which has included a US-backed air campaign against the militants, has destroyed large parts of Marawi, the largest Muslim-majority city in the Philippines.

Two Australian PC-3 Orion surveillance aircraft were deployed weeks ago to provide intelligence to Philippine ground troops as they fight to retake Marawi, on city on Mindanao island. He explained that the stalemate could not prolong for more than one year.

The foreign minister said Mr Duterte has not yet responded to the offer or identified what support is required.

"But it's out of my hands".

Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay, the spokesperson of the Joint Task Force Marawi, said troops from the 10th Infantry Battalion approached and took over the church on Friday afternoon. Meanwhile, some people have been sent to persuade the militants to release hostages without hurting them.

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They are also believed still to be holding hostages, including a Catholic priest. "Do not cut off their heads", he said.

Petinglay said that after the successful recovery of the cathedral, troops were also able to recover three high-powered firearms and assorted ammunition inside the building.

President Duterte on a recent visit to Marawi City.

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Palace welcomes Australia's help in training AFP troops