THE full might of the government will be used to block the entry of terrorists into the country amid “credible information” that the Abu Sayyaf and other groups were planning to kidnap foreign nationals in Palawan, Malacañang said Thursday.
After the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom issued travel warnings, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said the government is ready to counter any threats to national security.
“All units and assets are being utilized to ensure maximum security to deny any terrorist group’s entry and access in the high seas and coastal areas,” Abella said in a statement.
“Public safety is everyone’s concern. We assure everyone that the government is on top of the situation and authorities, particularly those in the Western Command, which covers the province of Palawan, are on heightened alert to prevent any untoward incidents,” he added.
On Wednesday, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered security forces to finish off terrorists by shooting them on sight amid the country’s growing security concerns.
“Wescom, along with the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine National Police, as well as the provincial government of Palawan and the city government of Puerto Princesa, are in close coordination in enforcing law and order,” Abella said.
The Palace also urged cooperation from residents and tourists “to be mindful and immediately report to law enforcement units any questionable individual or activity in the areas.”
Meanwhile, leftist groups express concern about the number of military men appointed by the President to his Cabinet, saying this could hurt peace talks with the communist rebels.
“President Duterte has been surrounding himself with retired generals whom he has appointed to various Cabinet posts. This increases the rightist-militarist pull within the Cabinet. This will likely have a negative effect on the ongoing peace talks. It will make negotiations that much harder,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes Jr., said.
“They [generals] will likely work in tandem with the conservatives and neo-liberals and overwhelm whatever progressive trends left in the Duterte adminstration,” he said.
On Wednesday, Duterte named current Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Eduardo Año, who is set to retire in October, as the next chief of the Department of the Interior and Local Government. Four other former generals are currently serving in high-profile and sensitive positions: Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and National Irrigation Administration chief Ricardo Visaya.
In a Palace briefing last week, Esperon branded communists as the “number one internal threat to national security” in terms of disrupting the democratic way of life of Filipinos with the ideology that they espouse.
While government and communist negotiators continue to engage with each other, the Communist Party of the Philippines tagged Esperon, along with Lorenzana and Año as “peace-spoiling stooges of US imperialism in the military establishment” after security officials tagged the group as “terrorists” for their revolutionary tax collection and territorial claims.
Three members of progressive groups were earlier recommended by the National Democratic Front to join Duterte’s Cabinet, including Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglungsod.