Philippine Pres. Duterte Calls For 20K Additional Troops in Marawi

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Although Duterte has faced intense criticism for his deadly human rights record, Tillerson said there was "no big contradiction" in providing the Philippines with military assistance.

U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson, left, poses with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for a photo during the former's courtesy call at Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, Monday, Aug. 7, 2017.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, during the Mindanao Hour press briefing yesterday morning, said Duterte is open to discussing the campaign against drugs with the USA top diplomat if it is raised.

But ahead of the meeting, Duterte's presidential spokesman, Ernesto Bella, said the topic would indeed come up, along with other pressing matters such as global terrorism threats, economic cooperation, and security in Marawi, the city that has been under siege by militants linked to the Islamic State for more than two months.

"We are providing [the Philippines] some training and some guidance in terms of how to deal with an enemy that fights in ways that is not like most people have ever had to deal with so it's a tragic situation down there", Tillerson said at the ASEAN forum in Manilla. "We've always included this issue in our discussion and engagements with foreign governments, particularly Western democracies", he added.

Duterte had also appealed for the return of the Balangiga bells to which the US Embassy in Manila vowed to find a resolution on the recovery of the said remnants of war.

"We also welcome the opportunity to address concerns such as human rights if and when raised", Bella said in a statement.

It was unclear, however, whether the USA secretary brought up the issue before Duterte, who has repeatedly badmouthed the US, the European Union and the United Nations following criticism of his so-called war on illegal drugs.

Meanwhile, this would be the second meeting of Australia's top diplomat Julie Bishop with Duterte, the first being last March in Duterte's hometown.

"We think they are beginning to get that situation under control", Tillerson told reporters.

According to Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar, Bishop's visit is proof of the Philippines' improving alliance with the land down under.

Both the USA and Australia are providing assistance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in its efforts to retake Marawi City from Islamic State-linked Maute terrorists.

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