Sen. Ernst calls for more counter-terrorism efforts in Philippines, whose president intends to end U.S. relations

10/21/2016 03:49 PM

LOUISVILLE – A day after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced his intent to sever military and diplomatic ties with the U.S. in favor of a cozier relationship with China, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst on Friday urged President Barack Obama to dedicate more resources to combat terrorism in the country.

Ernst, a first-term Republican, said the Philippines were ripe for terror groups in the years leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks carried out by al-Qaeda. She spoke to more than 200 on the University of Louisville’s campus at an event hosted by the McConnell Center.

She sees a similar pattern developing as the militant group Islamic State extends its reach beyond Syria and Iraq, drawing support from like-minded groups

“The administration’s plans to defeat ISIS have not changed, and a comprehensive global strategy still fails to be defined,” Ernst said in her remarks. “We cannot allow southeast Asia to once again become a safe haven for those who wish to target America.”

“The Philippines lost 44 of its special police in a single battle against groups now linked to ISIS in southeast Asia last year,” she continued. “In April, 18 Philippine soldiers were killed in a fight quickly claimed by ISIS.”

Ernst’s comments come a day after Duterte signaled an end to U.S.-Philippine relations during an official state visit to China on Thursday, saying he had “realigned myself in your ideological flow” and that the U.S. “has lost now.”

“And maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia,” Duterte said, according to CNN. “It’s the only way.”

Ernst also fielded questions from the audience, although none about this year’s presidential contest. She has remained committed to GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump at a time when others within her Senate conference have abandoned the New York businessman.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who introduced Ernst on Friday, declined to take questions after the event.

One subject Ernst addressed in the question-and-answer session was college affordability. She said debtors should be able to refinance their student loans while universities should explore private-sector partnerships to find more money for scholarships.

“I’ve talked to many businesses that are willing to help pay for students’ tuition if they’re focusing in an area that might benefit that private industry and work for them,” she said. “That way they know there is a job waiting for them when they finish their education.”


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