The public should report “new faces in the neighborhood” as part of keeping a close eye on foreign terrorists who might enter the southern back door of the country, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Col. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesman, came up with the reminder a few days after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the military has been verifying reports that foreign terrorists have entered the Philippines through Tawi-Tawi and Sulu provinces in Mindanao.
According to Arevalo, the AFP cannot “discount the possibility” that terrorists from outside the country have “surreptitiously [been]able to enter the country given our vast and porous borders.”
“That is why we are also keeping a tight watch over the country’s crevices. We have enhanced our own monitoring and security posture to keep our sea and air ports in check,” he said in a statement on Friday.
“We do this with the help of other relevant domestic and international agencies, as well as our own local government units,” Arevalo added.
On Monday, Lorenzana told reporters that they are keeping track of the presence of foreign fighters even if the Marawi City siege ended in October last year.
Soldiers fought for nearly five months in the capital city of Lanao del Sur province in southern Mindanao the Islamic State-linked Maute Group terrorists, whose ranks supposedly boasted of foreign members coming from several countries in Southeast Asia.
Arevalo assured that they have certain agreements with other regional and global partners such as the trilateral joint patrol with Malaysia and Indonesia, which the Philippines entered into in October 2017.
“But at the end of the day, we need the vigilance, cooperation and active participation of our people in the communities who can monitor and report the arrival of new faces in the neighborhood,” he said.
At a news conference also on Friday, Arevalo reported that most of the foreign terrorists who participated in the Marawi siege along with the Maute Group have been “neutralized.”
“Our focus now here is what will be the security procedure and security posture that we will enforce as to how we will prevent the entry of additional foreign fighters in the Philippines,” he told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
“There were foreign terrorists [who]entered the country but most of them were already neutralized while fighting for the liberation of Marawi City [from the Maute Group],” Arevalo said.
According to him, threat within the country “is always there,” whether coming from syndicates, terrorists and petty criminals.
He said recruitment of terrorists in the Philippines will not stop for them to be able to “continue the fight against our government.”
“But let me assure that the government… has been exerting all efforts to foil’ the recruitment, Arevalo added.