NICA: No threats to Pope Francis
Ricky Bautista (The Philippine Star) - December 29, 2014 - 12:00am

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – Authorities have not monitored any security threat to Pope Francis when he visits the Philippines next month, an official said yesterday.

National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) Assistant Regional Director 8 Eustacio Bacabac reported the assessment during a conference of government security sectors on the Papal Visit 2015.

Bacabac said NICA believes the New People’s Army (NPA), one of the domestic threats, would not make any move against the Pope.

“(The insurgents), however, had been monitored lobbying to include some of their supporters in the roster of typhoon victims joining the breakfast with the Pope,” he said.

He said that the insurgents “are focused mainly on (agitating) people to go against the Aquino administration.”

He spoke during the three-day Advocacy and Consultative Forum and Target Hardening seminar at Eastern Visayas police regional office in Camp Campetic, Palo, Leyte last Dec. 26 to 28.

The government said the NPA wants to get sympathy from Francis, the world’s most influential personality, through its activists and left-leaning militant groups.

Based on NICA’s latest evaluation of regional threats, NPA Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee had slightly decreased membership from 636 in 2013 to 499 in 2014.

The number of NPA-influenced barangays has also decreased from 76 in 2013 to 34 in 2014, NICA’s agents have reported.

Bacabac attributed this development to the efforts of the Army and local governments to declare several provinces in Eastern Visayas as Manageable Conflict-Affected and Development-Ready Areas.

Undersecretary Felizardo Serapio Jr. of the Office of the Executive Secretary - Law Enforcement and Security and Integration Office said government authorities should not take these as reasons to relax.

“We have to join hands in all our efforts of monitoring and securing the Pope,” he said.

Quoting an old adage, Serapio, also Philippine Center on Transnational Crime (PCTC) executive director, said: “A terrorist needs to be lucky once, we have to be lucky every time.”

He was in town yesterday to discuss the most recent trends of terrorism to the local secretariat, government security sectors, various volunteer groups and multipliers.

New Eastern Visayas police director Chief Superintendent Asher Dolina said the government will use its full resources in securing Francis, including other VIPs arriving in Leyte.

“I appeal to everyone to do everything for the Pope’s security,” he said.

Police are holding seminars, orientations, security planning and site inspections in close coordination with the Vatican Secretariat and government agencies like the Presidential Security Group, Armed Forces, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), and Civil Security Police Office (CSPO), he added.

Dolina said the Eastern Visayas Explosives and Ordnance Disposal has been conducting “bomb awareness” seminars for policemen, volunteer groups and village officials in Leyte, for them to easily identify possible bomb threats in the field and in crowds.

At least four experienced police sub-commanders have been assigned to supervise the Pope’s engagements in Leyte, he added.

Dolina said troops have been deployed in DZR Airport, en route, Bishop’s Palace and Palo Cathedral.

Army Scout Rangers are securing mountains and hills in adjacent towns such as Carigara, Abuyog, Burauen, Palompon and Ormoc, he added.

Dolina said clients in hotels and lodging houses are being screened and vehicles entering their premises carefully checked. Hotel staff and security guards are also being briefed on the modus of terrorists, whether groups or individuals, he added.

The regional police estimated that around 50,000 men in uniform and 25,000 volunteers and emergency responders are ready for deployment in various locations.

Non-uniformed intelligence officers will blend into the crowd expected to be in the millions.

Police and the military will also put on standby an undetermined number of sea patrol fast boats, helicopters, tanks, Navy vessels, and rubber boats to surround the airport facing the Pacific Ocean.

Bomb experts and police with bomb-sniffing dogs will also be deployed in checkpoints, as well as water stations, medical teams and radio communicators. Government snipers will be deployed in high-rise buildings.

Next week, more security forces from neighboring regions, along with their respective resources, are expected to arrive in Tacloban City to reinforce the local security groups, police said.

As early as Jan. 15, or two days before the papal visit in Leyte, police will regulate the movement of vehicles going in and out of Tacloban City and Palo town.

Only vehicles of the security convoy of the Pope and selected dignitaries will be allowed to move en route to its destinations – from the airport to Palo town.

No public and private vehicles will be allowed to roam around unless they have a valid car pass. Motorists from Luzon to Mindanao and vice versa are advised to use the Samar – Diit – Sta. Fe – Alang-alang – Carigara routes and Samar – Babatngon – Sta. Fe road and vice versa to avoid heavy traffic.

Two days after his arrival in the Philippines on Jan. 15, Francis will fly to Tacloban City and Palo town in Leyte, according to the Vatican secretariat.

Tacloban City and Palo were the most devastated areas when Typhoon Yolanda ravaged the Visayas on Nov. 8, 2013.

In Leyte, Francis will celebrate Mass, host a luncheon and comfort typhoon survivors.


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