Aquino doubles security due to ‘credible threat’ vs Pope
NEW YORK—President Aquino on Tuesday said he expected stepped up measures by the Presidential Security Group (PSG) to protect Pope Francis during his visit to the Philippines in January next year amid a news report in Italy of a possible threat against the Pontiff by Islamic militants.
“We are not going into details. What the PSG affords me, I want to see them double the effort especially for the head of the Holy Mother Church. There shouldn’t be any incident while he’s in our country. But going into details now might increase the problems of the PSG,” Aquino told reporters in a briefing.
The Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican, Habeeb al-Sadr, has been quoted by the Italian newspaper La Nazione earlier this week as saying there is a “credible threat” from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) against the Pope.
With ‘Yolanda’ victims
Pope Francis will be in the Philippines from Jan. 15 to 19, primarily to visit the survivors of Super Typhoon “Yolanda” that devastated the Visayas in November last year. He is scheduled to fly on Jan. 17 to Tacloban, which bore the brunt of the cyclone, internationally known as “Haiyan.”
The PSG will also beef up security for 21 world leaders, including the United States, China and Japan, who are expected to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in the Philippines in November next year, the President said.
Aquino said the terrorist groups in the Philippines being pursued by security forces are not part of the Isis.
“The Abu Sayyaf, maybe even the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) are doing basically the same things but now attributing it to their joining IS, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they are IS,” the President said.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario was set to meet with officials from the US Department of State on Wednesday morning on the latest air strikes by the US military carried out against the Islamic extremist group in Syria.
The President said Del Rosario would seek “more details, exactly if they [US] are asking for assistance [from the Philippines] and what manner of assistance… which we will review.”
“Of course, we want to do something that is doable and within our capabilities without posing undue risks to our forces or the country at large,” said Aquino, who was winding up a two-week visit to Europe and the United States.
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