Friday, April 21, 2017

Army commander aware of ASG terror plans; Dauin mayor assures of tight security

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 21): Army commander aware of ASG terror plans; Dauin mayor assures of tight security

A commander of the Philippine Army in Negros Oriental has debunked early reports that it was the United States Embassy in Manila who knew first of the plan of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) to carry out their kidnapping activities in the Visayas.

There is no truth to insinuations, the US Embassy was the first to break the news about the plan of the Abu Sayaff to conduct kidnappings in Central Visayas when it issued the advisory two days before the incident in Inabanga, Bohol, said 79th Infantry Batallion commanding officer Lt. Col. Roderick Garcia on Friday.

He stressed the Army already knew about the plan of the ASG to target Central Visayas, but it was unclear when and where.

It was for this reason that since 2015 when they knew of the plan that the possible targets are Cebu and Bohol, the 79th IB and the Philippine National Police (PNP) headed here by Sr. Supt. Henry BiƱas, had strengthened their defenses along the coastlines, together with the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy.

Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Ragay Degamo had even issued an executive order way back in 2015 to form a task force, now known as Task Force Leon Kilat.

Garcia said the Army and the PNP in the province did not take the reports lightly after the incident in Samal Island, which was not the main target, but due to lapses in its defenses, the kidnapping was perpetrated by the ASG in that island.

As a result, additional troops were deployed in Apo Island, the premier tourist destination in Negros Oriental.

The army commander disclosed that the army intelligence even knew that the ASG left Zamboanga to an undisclosed destination in the Visayas and was monitored in the vicinity of Siquijor island days before the incident in Inabanga, Bohol.

Meanwhile, Dauin Mayor Neil Credo has denied reports of the presence of the Abu Sayyaf in his municipality.

Since two months ago, there was no report of any ASG presence in the town of Dauin, where Apo Island is located.

In fact, Credo said tourist arrivals in the municipality had increased, with average arrivals from 250 to 300 every day, mostly foreign nationals.

One foreign national even said Apo Island is the safest among the tourist destinations in the Visayas, especially after the incident in Bohol.

However, Mayor Credo is not taking chances with the municipality having its own so-called “sea warriors” on board a patrol boat manned by Police Environmental Desk Officers (PEDO) and some regular and job order employees of the municipality, aside from the contingents from the army, navy and the coast guard.

It has organized the fishermen and barangay officials along the coastal areas, and briefed them on the existing threat.

Likewise, the local chief executive has also established direct links to 30 more or less beach resorts in the municipality, for them to strengthen their in-house security and implement the Dauin “First Policy” of hiring locals first in their resorts before outsiders.

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