By Vincent Pisani
The U.S. announced on July 19th that they will be contributing $26.5 Million in support to Filipino law enforcement over the next two years to strengthen counter terrorism capabilities. This support will primarily come in the form of training and equipment, likely from the U.S. military. The Philippines continues to experience a substantial terrorist presence on the southern island of Mindanao where Maute Group remnants and Abu Sayyaf are known to operate. Although terrorism is not a new issue in the Philippines, recent incidents such as the Siege of Marawi have brought increased attention to the issue. A state of emergency remains in effect for the country and travel warnings from the U.S. and U.K. governments indicate that these groups maintain the capability to strike outside of the Mindanao region. As such; the move to provide funding for Filipino law enforcement is in line with past U.S. initiatives in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia for combating terrorism. There is also a strong possibility that the move is intended to offset recent Chinese military diplomacy with the Philippines, which has seen visits from small groups of Chinese warships and aircraft in recent months. Finally; this should improve U.S.-Philippine relations during a time of mixed messaging from Manila and increased tension due to China’s military moves in the South China Sea.