Despite US presence, Filipino military reminds: 'We are a sovereign nation'

Padilla made the response when asked by a local reporter about the role of US troops in the battle zone in Marawi

Militants kill 19 civilians in southern Philippines
Smoke billows behind a mosque in a residential neighbourhood of Marawi City due to fighting between government forces and the Maute militant group on Mindanao island, southern Philippines on May 28, 2017. Reuters

Despite the presence of the United States military in the Marawi battle to help Filipino troops fight militants, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reminded the public including the US that the country is still a sovereign nation.

"We are a sovereign nation and their assistance is more on information sharing and this is the best weapon to address terrorism in the country," General Restituto Padilla, the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said during the press briefing held in Manila on Monday noontime.

Padilla made the response when asked by a local reporter about the role of US troops in the battle zone in Marawi as the armed conflict enters its fourth month.

The AFP chief of staff also said the Filipino government relies on information sharing with different countries to keep track on the movement of these terrorists.

The Department of National Defense (DND) earlier admitted seeking the help of the US military to help the Filipino soldiers because of the lack of Philippines' technical capability to conduct surveillance on the rebels' position.

However, the assistance provided by the US military to the Philippines is more on intelligence sharing and technical assistance.

Filipino laws prohibit foreign military to fight local rebels within the country, but US soldiers deployed in Marawi were heavily armed to defend themselves when attacked.

Moreover, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte who has been at odds with the US, told the media that he did not seek the help of the US military but expressed his gratitude to the US for assisting the Filipino soldiers.

However, before the Marawi conflict, Duterte said that he can finish off terrorism without the help of US assistance by deploying 10,000 soldiers in Basilan and Sulu provinces.

But after US personnel deployed their drones and surveillance aircraft to monitor the militants' stronghold, Duterte said, "It's already there, I have to be thankful to them (Americans)."