The Philippines faces a much bigger terrorist threat than the one posed by IS-linked Maute militants as the country could become a new base of extremists driven out of the Middle East, The Manila Times Online reported on Saturday.
The possibility of more extremists streaming into Southeast Asia and setting up a new base in the region was raised by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Eduardo Ano.
“In reality, when (IS) loses its ground in Iraq and Syria, some of these jihadists and extremists will be looking for land bases or areas outside Iraq and Syria,” said Cayetano.
He said the military had been monitoring some 40 foreign terrorists in the country, but not all of them were in Marawi. About 20 of the foreign terrorists were Indonesians and six were Malaysians, he added.
But Ano said more foreign fighters were attempting to penetrate the region as well as the Philippines, amid advances by western forces against IS.
For the Phillipines, Ano said all departments of government – from education, social services, health nad livelihood – must come up with plans to help fight extremist ideology by showing young people that there were other ideas that were not extreme or violent.
He warned that more attacks were likely in the future and with more participants.