The Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces and other law enforcement agencies have increased their guard in Negros Oriental, following intelligence reports that the Mindanao-based extremist terror group, Abu Sayyaf, is planning to launch hostilities in the Visayas.
It could not be ascertained, however, which parts of the Visayas region are being targeted by the Abu Sayyaf.
The provinces of Siquijor and Bohol are also on heightened alert, with at least three Philippine Navy boats deployed at the popular tourist destinations, Balicasag Island and Panglao Island, specifically Alona Beach, to thwart possible attacks by the Abu Sayyaf, notorious for their kidnap-for-ransom activities.
Some civilians said they spotted Philippine Navy boats last week plying the southern corridor of Tañon Strait between Negros Oriental, Siquijor and Bohol but Coast Guard authorities in Dumaguete City could not confirm this.
Negros Oriental provincial police director, Senior Supt. Rey Lyndon Lawas, yesterday confirmed that as early as January 3, they had received intelligence reports of some suspected Abu Sayyaf members leaving Zamboanga en route to Dumaguete.
Another intelligence report from military sources said that suspected Abu Sayyaf members had departed from Dapitan City in Dipolog and were headed towards Negros Oriental. The latest report said the Abu Sayyaf has a plot to target Bohol.
Lawas, however, said all these are unverified information and it is possible that the suspected terrorist personalities may just have been passing through Dumaguete to another destination.
He said he immediately directed police chiefs in the southern towns where most beach resorts are located, and also Bais City in central Negros Oriental, to coordinate with their management and undertake necessary security measures.
Lawas also cautioned the public against reacting unnecessarily to the reports, saying there is no cause for concern.
“We are in control. But all of us must be vigilant and report the arrival of suspicious persons as well as dubious seacrafts especially along the shores of the province,” he said.
The PNP is also coordinating with the Bantay Dagat, the barangay intelligence networks, specifically along the coastal areas, and even the fishermen, to act as lookouts for unusual activities in their areas.
Lawas said the police is also tapping the assistance of the local Muslim community whose members have been very helpful, cooperative and supportive of the government’s efforts to combat terrorism.*JFP
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