No terror plots: Cebu is safe
CEBU, Philippines — Military and police authorities yesterday assured that Cebu is safe and that there are “no credible” reports of terror plots here.
The assurance came on the heels of an advisory issued by the British government warning its citizens from travelling to Mindanao and parts of central Philippines, including southern Cebu, amid reports that terrorists were planning to launch an offensive in these areas.
AFP Central Command commander Major General Noel Clement told The FREEMAN that the military is always on the lookout for any person/s who may be sowing terror in the region.
“CentCom has been and shall always monitor any terror threats in (the) Visayas. For now, there is no credible report (regarding) any terror plans,” Clement wrote in text message.
He added that military forces have been told to be extra-vigilant in order to prevent sudden attacks.
“I have already directed my forces (in) CentCom to exert effort to preempt any hostile plans of terror groups,” Clement said.
His statements were made following the issuance of the advisory by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The warning was hoisted several hours before the New Year’s Eve bombing at South Seas shopping mall in Cotabato City that left two people dead and 34 others injured.
“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all travel to western and central Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago because of terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgent groups,” the UK government website travel advisory notice reads.
FCO further discouraged travels, except essential ones, to Mindanao excluding Camiguin, Dinagat, and Siargao Islands. The whole of southern part of Mindanao and the municipalities of Dalaguete and Badian in Cebu are also covered by the advisory because of “the threat of terrorism”.
“Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in the Philippines, including in Manila,” it adds. “Terrorist groups continue to plan attacks and have the capacity and the intent to carry out attacks at any time and anywhere in the country, including in places visited by foreigners, like airports, shopping malls, public transport, including the metro system, and places of worship.”
But Superintendent Janette Rafter, chief of Investigation and Detective Management Branch and spokesperson of Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO), said at a press conference yesterday morning that the advisory should not cause any alarm.
“For the CPPO, we have no imminent threat, particularly sa atong mga tourist spots. Nevertheless, we are conducting target-hardening measures, and have informed police stations to always be alert,” Rafter said.
She said police are currently coordinating with other counterpart agencies to secure entry and exit points.
“We ensure that we are doing our best to prevent happenings such as in Cotabato City,” Rafter said.
Moreover, both the military and the police have assured that the unconfirmed terror reports will not hamper the Sinulog festivities in Cebu, promising to have better coordination with each other for better security.
The Police Regional Office in Central Visayas has said that part of the preventive measures during the Sinulog is recommending the installation of signal jammers to block any improvised explosive device from being activated through a mobile phone.
“(We) have already set up security measures at vital installations in the area of responsibility to ensure the safety and security of our citizens and visiting tourists as early as Christmas and will extend until Sinulog,” PRO-7 Director Debold Sinas said.
At the Capitol, Governor Hilario Davide III urged the police and armed forces, as well as the citizens, to be vigilant.
He said though that he has not heard of any report putting Cebu under threat.
Davide said he spent the holidays in the south and did not hear of any terrorist incident there.
While the said advisory was only updated to include Cotabato City last December 31, the advisory on southern Cebu towns up to Dalaguete and Badian has been actually up since August 13.
When it was first released, Vice Governor Agnes Magpale back then urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to correct the impression towards Cebu province. — Lorraine Mitzi A. Ambrad (FREEMAN)