Philippine army (Source: AFP/VNA)
Manila (VNA) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on May 26 that he was willing to hold dialogue with the Maute rebels, which have been fighting the Government’s military for three days in Marawi city on Mindanao island.

He said an ongoing siege by Muslim radicals in the southern city demonstrated that Islamic State (IS) had a presence in the Philippines, but there was still a chance for peace.

In a speech to soldiers in Iligan city, close to Marawi, the President said that his message mainly to the terrorists on the other side is they can still solve this through dialogue. 

The Maute rebel group has besieged Marawi city, the capital of Lanao Del Sur province, since May 23 when the Government’s military was conducting a security campaign. 

President Duterte declared martial law, saying the Maute group tried to establish a "daesh" or so-called Islamic State province in Marawi city when they laid siege to the capital of Lanao Del Sur.

Addressing the Congress on May 26, President Duterte explained his basis for the declaration of martial art in Mindanao, the armed siege and acts of violence of the Maute and some Abu Sayyaf fighters were meant to take control of major social, economic and political foundations of the city to lay the groundwork for the eventual establishment of an IS province in Mindanao.

Duterte said the Maute group was chiefly based in Lanao Del Sur, but it had extensive links to local and foreign terrorist organisations such as the Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiyah and Mujahidin Indonesia Timur.

According to the Philippine army, the Maute group has Malaysian, Indonesian and Singaporean fighters. 

Zachary Abuza, a Southeast Asian security expert, said that government troops could manage the Maute group because it is a small group. Though they have pledged their allegiance to IS, there is no evidence to date that IS has given them any resources, the expert said.

Chief of Staff of the Philippine Armed Forces General Eduardo Año said top terror suspect Isnilon Hapilon was still hiding in the besieged city of Marawi. Militants are trying to find a way to extricate Hapilon.

Philippine troops backed by armored vehicles and rocket-firing helicopters were fighting to re-take control of Marawi. The city has been under siege by gunmen linked to the IS group since a raid earlier this week failed to capture Hapilon, one of Asia's most-wanted militants.-VNA