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19 areas under high terror alert

Roel Pareño - The Philippine Star

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Some of the country’s most popular tourist spots are among the 19 places considered under high threat from terrorists.

The National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) made the assessment based on the outcome of a security meeting last Nov. 26, according to city police director Sr. Supt. Angelito Casimiro.

In a press briefing yesterday, Casimiro said the high terrorism threat assessment was based on persistent reports of a plot by the Abu Sayyaf and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) to attack civilian targets and engage in kidnap for ransom activities.

Placed under terror threat level 3 were Palawan, Malay and Aklan in Boracay island in the southern portion of Panay island region; Zamboanga City and Isabela City in Basilan; the cities of Dipolog and Dapitan in Zamboanga del Norte; Zamboanga Sibugay; Cotabato City; towns of Palembang, Isulan and Lebak in Sultan Kudarat; Kidapawan City and the towns of Kabakan, Midsayap and Aleosan, all in North Cotabato.

He said the NICA assessment also placed under threat level 3 Maguindanao, the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi; and Marawi all in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

For Metro Manila, the terror threat category is at level 2 or moderate, as no terror threats are reported despite the huge holiday crowd in many places.

Also under level 2, Casimiro said, are Pagadian, Pitogo in Zamboanga del Sur; Lanao del Norte and the cities of Cagayan and Iligan, Davao City and Samal Island.

The towns of Kalamansig, Esperenza, President Quirino, Tacurong City, all in Sultan Kudarat; the towns of Alamada, Mlang in North Cotabato, the towns of Maasin, Kiamba and Maitum in Sarangani and General Santos City, and the rest of Lanao del Sur were assessed under moderate terrorist threat.

Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said they were unfazed by terror threats but were nonetheless prepared.

She said the opening of the KCC Mall, the biggest in Mindanao, has bolstered the confidence of the people in the city’s stability.

Mayor Cherrylyn Santos-Akbar of Isabela City said growing investments have also improved the image of her city and inspired her constituents.

Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor, spokesman for the Philippine National Police (PNP), said Zamboanga City police are always on alert and that every unit commander has the prerogative to raise the alert level if the need arises.

“In fact, the regional director is now analyzing whether or not policemen in the region will be allowed to take their Christmas break, considering the peace and order situation,” Mayor said in an interview.

Mayor noted that the entire BaSulTa (Basila, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi) has always been on heightened alert. – Cecille Suerte Felipe

ABU SAYYAF AND BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS

ANGELITO CASIMIRO

AUTONOMOUS REGION

BASILAN

CAGAYAN AND ILIGAN

CASIMIRO

CECILLE SUERTE FELIPE

CITY

NORTH COTABATO

SULTAN KUDARAT

SULU AND TAWI-TAWI

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