The Abu Sayyaf has been operating unchecked in this southern region of the archipelago since the 1990s, inspiring terror for its kidnappings and beheading of hostages.

Addressing a different military camp in neighboring Zamboanga del Sur province on Wednesday, Mr. Duterte ordered the soldiers to "destroy" the Abu Sayyaf, which has been time and again his articulated policy on the terrorists.

But on Friday, addressing the 2nd Marine Brigade Headquarters in Camp Gen. Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo island, Mr. Duterte said, "If you agree to a peace I will lengthen the runway [of Jolo Airport] and make it operational day and night. And I will bring the Arab investors here."

"You have to understand each other for after all [the conflict is] only because of religion, which the Spaniards brought. But Islam was ahead .I would like to appeal to all that we stop this war. I'm pleading, so that no more blood will be spilled," he added.

Mr. Duterte said he wanted to see the soldiers finally have a chance to come home to their families.

He also said, seemingly in jest, "I would rather we anticipate a war with China, for they might engage us in a war," as he mimicked the fighting sounds in martial-arts films.

"But we are not in a haste to go to war [with China], we are in fact we in a haste to talk to them," Mr. Duterte added.

The Commander-in-Chief also assured his soldiers: "Leave your worries. All you ever need to face your enemy, to be in a superior position to do your war, you will have it [even] my presidential jet, it's yours to use as a flying ambulance. I'm will just take commercial flights."

The ASG reportedly still holds captive about 18 people, including 14 foreigners kidnapped in separate incidents.

Source: Business World Online