President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday thanked Israel for the help he deemed “critical” in defeating Islamic State-inspired rebels that laid siege to Marawi City last year.
Duterte extended the country’s gratitude during his remarks prior to the signing of agreements he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu witnessed at the premier’s office in Jerusalem.
“Mr. Prime Minister, I can only thank you so much especially the critical help that you have extended my country in time when we needed it most,” the President said.
Duterte declined to name the “very substantial and crucial” equipment in his remarks but the President revealed during his meeting with the Filipino community on Sunday evening (early Monday morning in Manila) that Israel provided “most of the intelligence gadgets that we used to win the Marawi siege.”
“It was a help to preserve the Republic of the Philippines and I thank you for that,” Duterte told Netanyahu.
Duterte was originally scheduled to visit in May last year but it was put on hold so he could supervise government efforts to crush militants led by the Maute group, whom he said were trying to establish a caliphate for the Islamic State.
The President declared Marawi liberated on October 17 last year after government troops killed terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute. More than 1,000 people, mostly terror fighters, died amid the clashes and thousands of residents were displaced.
“We share the same passion for peace. We share the same passion for human beings but we also share the same passion of not allowing our country to be destroyed by those who have the corrupt ideology who [do] nothing but to kill and destroy,” Duterte said.
“In this sense, Israel can expect any help that the Philippines can extend to your country.”
Duterte also hailed the “kindness and benevolence” of Israel especially in hosting some 28,000 Filipinos, mostly working as caregivers.
“They have been very happy working here, taking care of the aging population of yours, citizens,” he said.
“And I have heard that they have been treated as human beings. Unlike in other places of which I am not at liberty to mention now.”
Duterte timed his visit for the 81st anniversary of the open doors policy of the Philippines under then President Manuel Quezon, who offered shelter to some 1,300 Jews escaping the Holocaust in Europe in 1937.
The Philippines was also the only Asian state that voted for the United Nations Partition Plan in 1947 that paved the way for the creation of the State of Israel.
Duterte’s former wife, Elizabeth Zimmerman, is of Jewish ancestry, according to the President.
Their daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, joined the presidential trip.
“We received the Israelis there and their families and I am sure that many of them have spread all throughout the country. And one of them is the family of my daughter,” he said.
The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1957 with Duterte holding the distinction as the first Philippine leader to visit the Jewish state. —JST/BAP, GMA News