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High-Level Open Debate of the UN Security Council addressing linkages between Terrorism and Organized Crime

Thursday, 06 August 2020
H.E. MR. ENRIQUE A. MANALO Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
United Nations Headquarters, New York



Mr. President,


The terror-crime nexus is well established in the Philippines. The Abu Sayyaf Group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the Maute Group, and Ansar al Khalifa – who have all declared allegiance to the Islamic State – fund their operations through criminal activities, mostly drug trafficking, kidnapping for ransom, extortion, arms smuggling, and assassinations. They initially cooperated with criminal organizations; but have since developed their own criminal networks which operate under the false rubric of freedom struggles.

Organized criminal groups operate a robust shadow economy in the Philippines and launder criminal proceeds from drug and human trafficking, tax crimes and cybercrime. ISIL-affiliated groups also rely on that economy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not deterred or slowed down the activities of both terrorist and organized crime groups, and so we continue to be vigilant. As a country with over 36,000 kilometers of coastline, maritime security is of paramount importance to the Philippines. Its location makes it vulnerable to activities of international crime syndicates, including piracy, drug trafficking and human trafficking, activities whose profits have been known to finance terrorism.

The Marawi siege of 2017 illustrates the symbiotic relationship between terrorism and the illegal drug trade. With drug money, terrorists gathered a motley assortment of well-armed extremists, criminals, mercenaries, and foreign terrorist fighters to take control of Marawi. Narco-politicians supported the local terrorist groups with personnel, funds and firearms that helped sustain the siege that followed the government’s counter offensive. Intensive military and law enforcement operations allowed us to recapture Marawi in 6 months.

The financing of terrorism through illicit drugs has been a persistent problem, particularly with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), collectively known as the Communist Terrorist Group. Drug trafficking offers a profitable illicit revenue stream. The drug trade weakens social resistance and corrupts a political response. Local terrorist group members are both narcotics distributors or dealers and consumers. Shabu is frequently used for recruitment. And the shabu trade is primarily run by organized crime groups, including Hong Kong triads, hence our anti-drug operations target the trade.

Intelligence plays a crucial role in the campaign against drugs and promoting good governance. Hence, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte ordered the expansion of the National Intelligence Committee (NIC) through Administrative Order 7 (2017) to include the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Office of Transport Security and Philippine Coast Guard as members to ensure coverage of intelligence concerns. In addition, the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) also crafted the National Action Plan on Illegal Drugs that also helps towards addressing crime- terror nexus.

In response to UNOCT and CTED recommendations, we have also strengthened our legal and criminal justice framework with the  enactment of the 2020 Anti-Terrorism Law. This is in addition to already existing legislation that help address the linkages between terrorism and organized crime, particularly Republic Act No. 9160, or the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, as amended, and Republic Act No. 10168, or the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012.

Enhanced maritime cooperation and focus on border management and security to combat trans-national crimes at sea is also needed. At the sub-regional level, we conduct joint maritime patrols with Malaysia and Indonesia. In April 2020, we joined Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and INTERPOL in Operation ‘Maharlika III’,  a series of simultaneous law enforcement and border control actions along known terrorist transit routes in Southeast Asia that resulted in the arrests of both criminals and terrorists.

The ASEAN Comprehensive Plan of Action on Counter Terrorism provides for establishment of shared databases on terror-crime organizations, to enable a joint risk and threat assessment.

We are also participating in the UN’s Countering Terrorist Travel Programme, and have stressed the need for the Programme to focus as well on maritime border security.

Beyond these, a comprehensive approach that strengthens community resilience is required. Our Bangsamoro Organic Law, which gives autonomy to Muslim Mindanao, is intended to end the decades-long conflict that has been used by Abu Sayyaf and local terrorist groups as a freedom struggle.

Equally important is focus on the means that enable terrorist acts. Since money is the main driver of these linkages, identifying and curtailing sources of finance and tracking the flow are essential. Break the money flow and you break the terror-crime nexus. Our financial intelligence units thus work with law enforcement and prosecution agencies and local government units.

Addressing the role of information and communications technology (ICT) and social media is another crucial aspect,  as these facilitate organization of operations and money flows.

Finally, the Philippines calls for global solidarity and partnerships that aim to build capacity building, including in financial intelligence, to prevent and counter trafficking in persons, drug trafficking, and trafficking of artifacts and cultural property.

Thank you, Mr. President.



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