THE government has stepped up security measures after the United States issued a travel alert to its citizens in the country over reported threats of kidnapping by terror groups, Malacañang said on Friday.
In a statement, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella confirmed there was a police report about a plan to “stage kidnappings” in southern Cebu but that the report was “in the process of being validated.”
Abella said the Philippine National Police (PNP) had set in order security measures to prevent or forestall the kidnap threats.
“Moreover other measures are being undertaken in public venues to safeguard crowds from harm,” he said.
The Palace statement came after the US government issued an advisory last Thursday warning its citizens against traveling to southern Cebu, specifically Dalaguete and Santander towns, including Sumilon island, off the coast of Oslob, amid reports of kidnapping threats by terror groups.
The US Embassy also reminded American citizens in the country of the Department of State Worldwide Caution issued last September, which warned of threats of terrorist action and violence against US citizens and interests abroad, including the Philippines.
“Extremists have targeted sporting events, theaters, markets, mass transportation systems—including airlines, and other public venues where large crowds gather. Crowded nightclubs, shopping malls, buses, and popular restaurants have also been targets,” the advisory read.
Americans in the Philippines were also advised to be vigilant and to take appropriate measures to ensure their personal safety.
‘No specific threat’
But the PNP spokesman, Sr. Supt. Dionardo Carlos, said there was no specific threat against US citizens in Cebu.
Last month, six alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf group were reportedly seen in the province.
The director of the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group, Sr. Supt. Manolo Ozaeta, said previously the information on the sightings should have not been leaked to the public as it was still under validation.
Ozaeta said his men had followed members of the Abu Sayyaf group who had returned to their lair in the Zamboanga peninsula.
The Cebu PNP advised residents and tourists in the province to remain calm, saying Central Visayas was safe and secure.
“Coordination with the other counterparts, Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Coast Guard, was also initiated to further intensify the security measures implemented in every place of convergence such as hotels, resorts, beaches, and tourist destinations,” said Chief Insp. Dexter Calacar, public information officer of the PNP in Central Visayas.