PNP, AFP take steps to avert terrorism threat in Palawan

In a travel advisory released Wednesday, the US Embassy advised its citizens to take measures when visiting Palawan, including the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.

Hardline President Rodrigo Duterte said security has been beefed up in the affected areas and officers have been told to shoot suspected militants on sight.

The embassy identified two locations - the capital city of Puerto Princesa and the nearby Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park that attracts thousands of visitors daily - as areas the kidnappers were targeting.

Of El Nido, in northern Palawan, he said: "We arrived with jaws dropped as we soaked up our new surroundings in one of Asia's most handsome, least crowded and most sympathetically developed destinations".

In its travel advisory, the United States embassy alerted its citizens that it had received "credible information" on bandits' plan to kidnap foreign nationals in the areas of the province, including Puerto Princesa and the areas surrounding Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command, has been placed on heightened alert to prevent any untoward incident in the province.

Puerto Princesa is about 400km north-west of the Abu Sayyaf's strongholds in Sulu province.

Security forces foiled last month an attempt by about a dozen Abu Sayyaf militants to kidnap tourists in Bohol.

The police, as in other popular cities like Tokyo and Seoul in Asia and London and Paris in Europe, should expand their presence in local tourist spots to deter terror groups and other criminal elements from harming travelers and inflicting damage on Philippine tourism.

Security forces discovered the militants a day after they arrived on speedboats from Bohol and engaged them in a gun battle.

Nine militants, three soldiers and one policeman were killed in the clashes, according to authorities.

Another militant subsequently died in police custody, officials said.

The Bohol raid occurred days after the USA embassy issued a warning on potential kidnappings there and the neighboring island of Cebu, which has a major city of the same name.

The Abu Sayyaf had raided Puerto Princesa before, in 2001, when they seized three Americans and 17 Filipinos from the Dos Palmas resort in Honda Bay.

Following the USA travel advisory, Canada and Britain also updated their own advice, but included additional warnings about Dumaguete, Siquijor and Cebu, in the central Philippines. One of the Americans was beheaded, the first foreigner to be executed by the Abu Sayyaf, while another was killed in a military rescue attempt a year later.

Mr. Duterte on Wednesday repeated a warning that the Islamic State group was gaining influence in the Philippines.

Guerrero said among the reports they received, but was not validated was that the ASG will enter Palawan, with Coron as the target for kidnapping.

"We see to it that we are always a step further on security".

  • Leroy Wright