Armed forces step up
measures vs terrorists
MANILA — President Benigno S. Aquino III expressed confidence this week that “a very good resolution” to the country’s decade long rebellion and secessionist problems will be resolved in the soonest possible time.
Citing the report submitted to him by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita “Ging” Deles, the Chief Executive said that a breakthrough in the ongoing peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) could happen.
The President’s pronouncement came as the country’s Armed Forces and Philippine National Police stepped up security measures in the wake of the death of leading terrorist Osama bin Laden in an attack by American forces in Pakistan.
National Security adviser Cesar Garcia said there is no immediate threat from terrorists yet but the President had convened a Cabinet security group meeting to assess the implications of Bin Laden’s death on the country’s security.
“While we can’t discount retaliatory attacks by groups sympathetic to Osama bin Laden and his ideology we haven’t monitored any specific threat of an attack on Metro Manila. The terrorist threat level in Metro Manila remains at a moderate level,” Garcia said.
Moderate means that while threat groups may have the intent to undertake terrorist activities, their capability to carry out such intentions has n’ot been monitored and deemed unlikely at this time, Garcia noted.
But in Mindanao particularly in Regions 9, 11, 12, and the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the threat level is assessed to be at a high level, Garcia said. This means that the threat groups have the intent and capability to undertake terrorist activities in these areas.
“In the localities of this region, the retaliatory attack against the US, its interest and its allies who fought against terror have been reasonably expected,” the President’s security adviser said.
Groups affiliated with Al Qaeda and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) along with the regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and others have known sympathizers in this area. These groups can quickly mount attacks even without much preparation against their targets given the opportunity.
President Aquino spoke at the Liberal Party headquarters in Cubao, Quezon City. “Nakakagulat. Baka magkaunahan kung sino (sa CPP-NPA-NDF and MILF) ang ma-solve,” the President said.
Though he decided not to go into the details of the separate negotiations with communist and secessionist groups, the President told party mates that the proposals presented by the government counterparts are “extremely doable.”
“Pero pag sinabi ko kung sino ang mga proponent at kung ano ang mga hinihirit nila lahat ng mga ayaw magkasundo-sundo tayo, babatikusin, baka dagdag panganib doon sa mga gusto talagang makipagkasundo,” he said.
On the issue of the informal settlers, the President also informed his party mates that Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, Agrarian Reform Secretary Gil Delos Reyes, and Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje are all working towards solving it.
In Metro Manila alone, the President said, some 560,000 families are classified as informal settlers and the four secretaries have furnished him a copy of their proposed long-term solutions including the allocation of 2.5 million hectares of land for their relocation site
He said Secretaries Alcala, Delos Reyes, Paje and Robredo have identified 2.5 million hectares of land to be used by the informal settlers patterned like a homestead and can be offered through a long-term lease to every families who want to take the proposal.
He explained that each family especially those who want to go back to their respective provinces will be given opportunity to till two-hectares of land, while the house would be built through the help of the private non-government organizations like the Gawad Kalinga.
The President assured that the national government will be providing inputs such as roads, irrigation canals, energy and potable water supplies.
“Talagang complete package for those who want to go back to the province,” the President said adding that the program also solves the diminishing problem in the agriculture sector.
As countermeasures, even there is no report on an immediate threat to the Metropolis, the government upgraded security of critical infrastructures and other places deemed likely targets of terrorist attacks.
These include the embassies of countries engaged in a global war against terrorism, five-star hotels and other areas frequented by tourists, point of entry either by air or by sea, other transport facility and common public areas like churches and malls.
“In Mindanao, the AFP will sustain the momentum of its offensive against the Abu Sayyaf to keep them off balance and unable to take the initiative to plan and execute a major terrorist attack in the NCR,” Garcia said.
In addition, the intelligence community is enhancing coordination to better focus its efforts to neutralize and locate high-value targets in the ASG as well as the JI elements embedded in the group.
At the same time, Garcia said the Armed forces has augmented the capability of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in counter terrorism measures particularly in guarding airports, sea ports as well as in conducting patrols both mobile and stationery.