Mercurial Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signalled a deliberate turn towards Australia, as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promised that Canberra would share more intelligence on terrorism networks with the island nation
Mr Turnbull and Mr Duterte, whose war on drugs has left more than 14,000 Filipinos dead, agreed in a meeting in Manila to work closely together to prevent Islamic State-allied terrorists gaining a foothold in south-east Asia.
According to an official account of the private meeting held on the sidelines of an Association of South East Asian Nations summit, the leaders expressed concern about the threat of hundreds of hardened Islamic State fighters returning to their Asian home countries from Iraq and Syria.
They also agreed to work to combat terrorists’ use of the internet.
Australia had already pledged troops to train Philippine soldiers in urban warfare and to share some intelligence after the bloody siege of the southern Philippine city of Marawi by Islamic State-backed and -financed militants.
Australia also provided spy planes to assist the Philippine military in the four month battle
Mr Duterte has warned in the past that terrorists “bring the worst out of me” and shockingly told reporters “if I have to face them, you know I can eat humans. I really will open up your body…just give me vinegar and salt, and I will eat you.”
The meeting with Mr Duterte, a former provincial mayor who has often used vulgar language to lash world leaders who criticised the drugs killings, was one of Mr Turnbull’s most sensitive during a five-day trip to Vietnam, Hong Kong and the Philippines.
Last year Mr Duterte bluntly told Australia to stay out of his country’s affairs after Australia’s ambassador in Manila criticised him for joking he should have been first in line when inmates raped and killed an Australian missionary during a jail riot in his home town of Davao.