DOHA, Qatar – Addressing the Philippine-Qatar business forum in Doha, President Duterte said Sunday,“the Philippines is ready to stand by you (Gulf states)” and offered to help and send Philippine military forces to Qatar if the latter is in trouble.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon explained to newsmen, however, that the context of such offer is a military-to-military cooperation between the two countries, something that in turn is within the rubric of increasing partnership between the Philippines and Gulf States in fighting terrorism, particularly the Islamic State.
In a press briefing, Esperon said such cooperation with Gulf States was in fact made manifest recently, with the March 25 arrest in Taguig City of a Kuwaiti national married to a Syrian, both wanted on terrorism-related charges.
The cooperation between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Qatar will last from six months to a year, Esperon said, but will be selective and deal with specialized training.
“It would be on a basis of training which we have yet to set up. This will probably take . . . six months to one year. This will be very selective and it will be probably based on specialized courses or training. It’s a normal military-to-military cooperation, security cooperation,” Esperon said.
According to Esperon, right now the Philippines only has one military attaché assigned to the Gulf States area, besides the foreign liaison office of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) in Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
What the President meant when he said the Philippines stood ready to defend Qatar was that it was ready to help in terms of information sharing and direct coordination in handling security risks and issues, Esperon explained.
“You might recall we had this incident about two Kuwaitis who were apprehended in Manila. That was an example of an exchange in the area. A Kuwaiti who was married to a Syrian. So that’s an example of military and security cooperation,” Esperon said. He meant the case of Hussain al-Dhafiri, who is said to be a bomb-maker with ties to the ISIS and is wanted for an alleged plot to attack certain sites in Kuwait.
Al-Dhafiri’s case drew attention from the Bureau of Immigration in Manila, following alerts from international counterparts. The manpower accreditation agency in Taguig that endorsed the working visa application of al-Dhafiri, or Winston Q8, is now being investigated by Philippine immigration and the NBI. Authorities are checking if it had been used to raise or launder funds for terrorist activities, after migrant support groups denounced it for monopolizing the medical processing of Kuwait-bound job-seekers, in violation of the Migrant Workers’ Act. The monopolistic setup afforded Winston Q8 a lucrative source of funds, probers said.
According to Esperon, the issues of terrorism including fighting the IS, were tackled in key meetings of President Duterte with leaders of the Gulf States during his sojourn through the Middle East this week.
Duterte returns to the Philippines on Monday (April 17).