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FILE PHOTO: Philippines 'President Rodrigo Duterte stands at attention during a courtesy call with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Ministers in Manila, Philippines, September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Pool/Mark Cristino


MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte urged the United States on Tuesday to help control drugs smuggling, blaming Taiwan and Hong Kong-based criminal gangs for using his country as a shipping hub.

In a speech, he also said illegal drugs had funded the seizure by Islamist militants of large parts of the southern city of Marawi in May. More than 800 people have died in the conflict, which Duterte said was triggered by an attempt to arrest a drug personality, who he did not identify.

"The Philippines is a transhipment of shabu to America," Duterte told members of the Philippine Constitution Association, referring to the local term for methamphetamine. "It behoves upon America to work closely with the Republic of the Philippines, especially on this serious matter."

Duterte, who was elected 16 months ago on promises to fight corruption, crime and drugs, said the so-called 14-K triads in Hong Kong and the Taiwan-based Bamboo triads were using the country as a transhipment point.

"We are flooded with drugs. This is the first time I would reveal it ... the Philippines today is a client state of the Bamboo triad. They have taken over the operations," he added.

Duterte gave no details of the source of his information.

Washington has said it supports the country's anti-drug efforts but has also urged Manila to respect human rights and the rule of law in its operations.

More than 3,800 people have died in gunfights with police and soldiers in anti-drug operations nationwide since June last year, according to the government. Human rights groups say the figure is much higher.

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Susan Thomas)

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