Malaysia PM warns of IS foothold in Philippines

 18 Apr 2016 - 18:07

Malaysia PM warns of IS foothold in Philippines
 Malaysia's prime minister Najib Razak / AFP

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia's prime minister has warned of Daesh gaining a foothold in the Philippines south, as troops from its neighbor continue to battle related groups on islands in its south.
Talking at a regional defense services forum in capital Kuala Lumpur on Monday, Najib Razak said that destabilization of the Philippines' south would invite militant groups -- mainly Daesh to establish a foothold in the Southeast Asian region. 

"If that happens, it would have very serious consequences on all of us [Southeast Asian countries]," the premier said. Razak said that Malaysia -- which played a major role in brokering a shelved peace deal between the Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) -- has taken precautionary security measures to prevent Malaysia and its regional peers from becoming a target of Daesh.

The final peace agreement between the two is presently shelved, while Philippines Congress adjourns for presidential elections.
On Monday, Razak called for peace efforts in the South to be continued by the presidential successor. "President Benigno S Aquino III has been endeavoring for the peacekeeping efforts. But this must be continued [June 30] by whoever replaces him."  He underlined the investment that had gone into finding comprehensive long-term peace in the southern Philippines. 
"We must not take for granted the regional stability that we have enjoyed." He added that to honor the peace process, safe passage must be assured so Bangsamoro basic law -- the law that seals the peace process -- can be brought to the new Congress and be enacted.

Both the government and the MILF have warned that while the agreement is on hold, "terrorist" groups may try and take advantage of local frustrations.
Earlier this month, a 10-hour clash between the Daesh-linked Abu Sayyaf and the Philippines army left at least 18 troops dead in southern Tipo-Tipo town. The army continues to track the militants, with a weekend statement saying it had killed 32 of the group's members since the earlier battle.