Fighting talk: Manny Pacquiao visits troops fighting for ISIS-besieged city (PHOTOS)
Pacquiao visited Camp Ranao in the Southern Philippines at 9am local time Saturday for a security briefing with military officials wearing the unique camouflage of the Philippines Special Forces, who previously made him an honorary member, Rappler reports.
"I want to join you in the fighting, would you like that?" Pacquiao told the troops of the 103rd Brigade during his address.
"Don't surrender, because the same as in boxing, we're in the last 3 rounds and it's almost over."
The fighting has displaced roughly 400,000 residents from Marawi City and the surrounding countryside, ABS-CBN News reports. The current confirmed death toll from the siege has risen to 630: 471 terrorists, 45 civilians, and 114 state troops according to government figures.
Soldiers strain to take a picture of Sen. Pacquiao as he visits Camp Ranao in Marawi, takes time to take photos w/ some of them. pic.twitter.com/QDVsx9C4Sd— Raffy Tima (@raffytima) July 29, 2017
"We are happy to have the Senator here with us today, it is indeed quite a privilege," Westmincom Chief Lieutenant General Galvez said, as cited by Rappler.
"We know our troops on the ground will surely be in high spirits, knowing that Senator Pacquiao took his time out to come and show support to our troops despite his busy schedule."
The military claims the IS-linked Maute fighters have been contained within three neighborhoods in the city, while the army carries out minesweeping operations throughout the remainder of the city.
Martial law on the Southern island of Mindanao was recently extended by an overwhelming majority in an extraordinary joint session of the Philippines Senate and Congress.
Pacquiao is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Philippine Army's Reserve Force, having initially joined the reserves in April 27, 2006 as a sergeant.
"You are the real heroes, not Manny Pacquiao. I am just a boxer but you give your lives for our country," he told soldiers in a camp in Marawi City.
"Hopefully, I can come back here and greet you again when the fighting is done and if it isn't finished when I come back, then I will be the one who will go over there," Pacquiao said as artillery fire roared in the background.
Lord God, our Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus, we pray that you bless and protect our troops who are fighting in Marawi for our freedom. We pray that you give wisdom to those leading our troops and give each one of our soldiers courage as they fight in battle. We thank you for their sacrifice for our country. These men are the real heroes and we pray that you will shower your blessings upon them and their families. We thank you for our great country. Amen! 🇵🇭
The senator and former boxing world champion also handed out aid to the beleaguered troops who have been engaged in a protracted urban warfare campaign for months.
Pacquiao recently lost his WBO Welterweight Championship on July 2 to Australia's Jeff Horn via unanimous decision, but is still regarded as a national hero in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the United States has provided hundreds of rockets to the Philippines Armed Forces for use in the bombing raids which batter the Islamist militants still holed up in Marawi City on a daily basis.
“The munitions and weapons deliveries will enhance the AFP’s counterterrorism capabilities, and directly support AFP members actively engaged in counterterrorism operations in the southern Philippines, including Marawi,” the United States Embassy in the Philippines statement read.
"Upcoming weapons deliveries include 250 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and 1,000 M203 grenade launchers delivered to the Philippine Army through the security assistance program."