July 22 (UPI) — In a legislative victory for President Rodrigo Duterte, The Philippines has extended martial law through the end of the year on the embattled island of Mindanao.
The Philippines Senate and House of Representatives on Saturday voted by a 261-18 margin to extend martial law on Mindanao through the end of December, Nikkei Asian Review reported. The government originally declared martial law for 60 days, but Duterte has sought an extension.
The island, in the southern part of the country, has been a hotbed for fighting between Philippine security forces and a regional militant Islamist group called Maute, which has tried to create an Islamic State province in the largely Catholic nation.
More than 500 people have died in the fighting, the government has said, and the United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that more than 350,000 people have been displaced.
Pantaleon Alvarez, Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Philippines, said earlier this week he expected Congress to approve Duterte’s request. He added that most Filipinos recognize the seriousness of the situation in Mindanao and back Duterte’s martial law proposals.
When pressed by lawmakers this weekend, Duterte’s cabinet members would not say how much the martial law extension would cost taxpayers, Phil Star reported. The government has already taken a financial hit over its fighting with Maute militants.
“I would expect that by this time, your third quarter budget for the armed forces is already depleted,” House minority leader Danilo Suarez said.