Terror threat in Negros Oriental 'real'

DUMAGUETE CITY – Ranking police and military officials in the Visayas on Saturday confirmed that the threat posed by the Abu Sayyaf Group is for real in Negros Oriental and nearby areas like Apo Island, Sumilon Island and Siquijor.

Philippine National Police-Central Visayas regional director Noli Taliño, however, said the alleged sightings of armed men in Negros Oriental and Siquijor are still subject to confirmation.

Lieutenant General Oscar Lactao, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Central Command, said that Apo Island would have been the more vulnerable target of the Abu Sayyaf. But because of the target-hardening measures employed, the island is a difficult target for the bandits.

While authorities have already thwarted possible terror acts/kidnapping by the Abu Sayyaf in Bohol, the two officials said there are possibilities that other Abu Sayyaf members would carry out their terrorist activities in the region.

Lactao and Taliño called on Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo Saturday morning at the Capitol to discuss security measures.

During a briefing attended by members of the Joint Task Group Deter and Joint Task Force Leon Kilat and some mayors, the military disclosed vital information that would aid city officials in their target-hardening measures.

The cooperation of the local government units was highly stressed during the briefing considering that the locals are the ones who could monitor the arrival and presence of suspicious persons in their communities.

“I am calling, especially the people living in the coastal communities to report doubtful or unusual activity to the authorities immediately,” Degamo said.

The group led by Abu Rami, who was one of those killed in the Inabanga encounter, took only more than three days to reach Bohol since it departed Indanan, Sulu. The group had made a quick stop over in Lazi, Siquijor before it went to Bohol.

Despite the “prevailing threat” here, Degamo appealed to the public not to panic.

Lactao and Taliño assured that security forces and assets are in place to thwart any possible attacks by the terror group, following the April 10 clash in Inabanga, Bohol that left nine people dead.

Task Group Deter commander Captain Jorge Ibarra of the Philippine Navy said air and sea assets and ground troops were in place to secure the more vulnerable areas in the province.

Continuous seaborne and maritime patrols were being done by the Coast Guard and the Navy, while ground troops were deployed in Apo Island, Dauin, and other possible target areas, Ibarra added. (PNA)