PNP chief: Steps taken to thwart terror threat in Central Visayas
MANILA — Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald Dela Rosa has confirmed the existence of terrorist threats to kidnap tourists in Central Visayas but he assured vacationers that the police have taken the necessary steps to thwart them.
Dela Rosa said on Monday that the PNP also monitored the threat which has led the US Embassy to issue a travel advisory on Sunday, warning that there was “unsubstantiated yet credible information” that terrorist groups might kidnap tourists in Central Visayas, including Cebu and Bohol provinces.
“We have monitored and we are ready to face the threat. We have prepared for that,” Dela Rosa said in a press briefing.
“Don’t be afraid. I am giving assurance to the people that our policemen in Central Visayas are ready so don’t be afraid to go to these places,” he added.
Dela Rosa said that he understood the US Embassy exercising its role to warn Americans in the country about potential threats.
“The U.S. Embassy wishes to remind U.S. citizens of the most recent Worldwide Caution, dated March 7, 2017, which indicates there is an ongoing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests abroad, including the Philippines,” the embassy said in its travel advisory.
“Extremists have targeted sporting events, theaters, markets, mass transportation systems–including airlines, and other public venues where large crowds gather,” it said.
“Crowded nightclubs, shopping malls, buses and popular restaurants have also been targets. U.S. citizens should be mindful of the importance of taking preventative measures to ensure their safety and security while traveling and residing in the Philippines,” the embassy added.
Dela Rosa said he was briefed by the Central Visayas regional police director Chief Supt Noli Taliño on the terrorist threat.
“We have prepared for that. The regional director has taken the necessary actions to thwart these threats,” Dela Rosa said.
He did not identify the terror groups involved, adding that Taliño gave him “generic” information about the threat.
Dela Rosa also dismissed suggestions that the travel advisory was related to the arrest of suspected Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) members Husayn Al-Dhafiri and Rahaf Zina in Taguig last week.
“We have no information about that. Maybe they just came here to cool off or to work,” he said.
The PNP has deployed 75,000 policemen across the country to protect vacationers this Holy Week.
“Just don’t take that route that goes to the boundary of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia where the Abu Sayyaf frequently conducts its kidnappings,” Dela Rosa said.
“Don’t go there…all other parts are okay. The PNP is now on alert and is monitoring the Lenten season,” he added. SFM