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Philippine army says: “No imminent terror threats in Visayas”

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines — “There is no imminent threat (from terrorists). Attack is possible, but not likely.”

This was the assessment issued by the Philippine Army's 3rd Infantry Division on the threat to the Visayas posed by the Mindanao-based extremist groups, which are classified at Level 2 category in peace and security.

“That is why, we have to improve our structures, coordination and resiliency to insulate our provinces and regions from the Mindanao spill over,” according to Major General Jon Aying, 3rd ID commander, who supervises the security of 10 provinces in Western and Central Visayas.

This also developed as the Armed Forces of the Philippines is now winding up its operations against the ISIS-inspired Maute terrorist group in Marawi City.

But concerns have been raised that the local terrorists may move to other areas, to avoid sustained military operations in Mindanao.

Three months ago, the 3rd ID and the police managed to contain the expansion of operations of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group in Bohol.

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Eleven ASG members were killed, and two others arrested, including a policewoman with the rank of superintendent.

This prompted the AFP to organize task forces in 10 provinces of the three Visayas regions, to address possible spillover of terrorist groups from Mindanao.

Aying, in a security briefing here, said the newly-created Task Force Buglas can be a medium for making all sectors come together and become active and responsive in addressing all security threats.

Task Force Buglas was given a budget of P25 million by the provincial government of Negros Occidental for the training of security personnel and to buy equipment to combat terrorism, with the bulk of the security effort focused on the coastal areas of southern Negros island.

Senior Superintendent Rodolfo Castil, director of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (NOCPPO), yesterday said he is proposing additional training for SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) personnel, such as in hostage negotiation, and creation of K9 units, to support the Task Force Buglas.

Negros Occidental Vice Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson and Colonel Eliezer Losañes, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, as well as the Police Regional Office, the Regional Public Safety Battalion, the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard, and the Maritime Command also assured their all-out support to the task force.

Citing the Bohol experience, Aying said their campaign against the terrorists would not have succeeded, if there was no critical collaboration from the community. (FREEMAN)

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