Tuesday, May 3, 2011

'No specific threat in Phl'

By Delon Porcalla
The Philippine Star, Wednesday, May 4,, 2011

Philippine Navy commandos patrol the waters behind the US embassy in Manila yesterday. The government has tightened security in airports and places hosting embassies for possible retaliatory terror attacks in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden.

Not on terrorists’ priority
Defense Undersecretary and spokesman Eduardo Batac said terrorists were certainly planning retaliatory attacks but the Philippines might be far from their minds.

“We know the terrorists will always come up with retaliatory action but as to targeting the Philippines, I think we would be very far in the priority list,” Batac said in a press briefing yesterday.

“However, we again caution our people that we have to remain vigilant and alert. It’s the only way that we can combat terrorism,” he said.

“Without the cooperation of our people, it’s going to be very hard for authorities to detect any movement,” he added.

“If there are movements (by terrorists) we can detect that. They have to familiarize themselves with the terrain, especially in urban areas. There are measures by which we can detect the entry of these foreign groups. But we can’t be complacent,” Batac said.

“We caution our citizenry that this is not the time to put our guard down but a time for more vigilance and alertness in seeing to it that the specter of terrorism does not creep back into our national territory,” he added.

AFP vice chief of staff Lt. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu said supporters of bin Laden would likely prioritize the US and European countries.

“They always seek something that will create a worldwide effect psychologically. If they attack the US or big companies in Europe, it will have a huge psychological effect,” Mapagu said.

But he stressed the Philippines should not be complacent.

“Even if we say that we are low in their priorities, the mere fact that we are one of the possible targets, then we should remain vigilant,” Mapagu said.

Navy chief Vice Adm. Alexander Pama, for his part, said he has ordered his men to step up intelligence gathering.

“(The terrorists) may seek to retaliate but our troops are aware of that. Because of this, we enhanced our readiness to avoid untoward incidents,” he said.

Pama said they do not see any need to send more troops to areas believed to be strongholds of the Abu Sayyaf.

“More or less we know the critical areas and the people to be monitored,” he said.

In Zamboanga City, security officials said vigilance among civilians is key to thwarting terror attacks.

“The vigilance of the civilians will be a major factor in blocking any sabotage attempts,” according to Police Regional Office 9 director Chief Superintendent Elpidio de Asis.

But he said the Zamboanga peninsula is generally safe because terror groups operate mainly in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi areas.

De Asis said the Abu Sayyaf lost its direct financial support from al-Qaeda after the death of Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, brother-in-law of bin Laden, during a raid in 2007 in Madagascar. Khalifa was in Zamboanga City in the 1990s.

“So the concentration now of the Abu Sayyaf is mainly in BaSulTa (Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi) areas but our counterparts have been running after the group,” De Asis said.

“The civilians know already how to take actions, in fact the bulk of our successful operations were the contributions of the civilians,” said Lt. Col. Randolf Cabangbang, spokesman of Western Mindanao Command or Westmincom.

For complete news visit Philstar.com

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