Singapore offers cargo plane, drones to help Philippines fight militancy

SINGAPORE, July 19 (Reuters) – Singapore has offered a military transport airplane, drone surveillance aircraft and use of combat training facilities to support the Philippines’ fight against the rising threat of Islamist militancy, the defence ministry said on Wednesday.

The offer stemmed from talks in Manila earlier this week between Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and his Philippines counterpart Delfin Lorenzana.

Surrounded by Muslim majority countries and with a Muslim minority of its own, Singapore is worried by the small but dangerous number of people in the region who have been radicalised by Islamic State.

Ministers describe the terror threat against the wealthy city-state as the highest in recent years and alarm was heightened in May when a militant group linked to Islamic State seized Marawi City on the southern Philippines island of Mindanao.

Security forces are still battling to regain control of the town and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte this week asked Congress to extend martial law until the end of the year on Mindanao, the only Muslim majority island in the largely Catholic Philippines.

During the past two months Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines launched joint maritime and air patrols over their shared boundaries in the Sulu Sea, to guard against the movement of militants between Borneo Island and Mindanao.

Supporting the regional effort, Singapore’s Defence Ministry said that it had offered a C-130 transport plane to deliver humanitarian supplies, drone surveillance aircraft, and use of training facilities for the Philippines military.

“While the AFP is confident that Marawi will be secured from terrorists soon, further concerted efforts are required to ensure that other terrorist cells do not entrench themselves in the southern Philippines, as this would cause instability to the rest of ASEAN,” the ministry said in a statement.

Fearful that Islamic State could build a base in Southeast Asia, governments in the region announced last month that they plan share intelligence, using spy planes and drones to stem the movement of militants across their porous borders.