THE Philippines heightened its alert as it braced for possible attacks a day after bombings rocked Jakarta and amid warnings that Islamic jihadists may step up their attacks worldwide.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) said it can deploy troops if needed as the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) went on full alert.
The PNP spokesman, Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor, said the police force went from heightened to full alert on Thursday evening.
“The PNP is ready to deploy its rapid respond forces to response to any eventuality,” Mayor told reporters.
Police district directors and chiefs of police in Metro Manila were instructed to heighten their security measures to ensure that no terror attack will occur in the Metro Manila.
Under a full alert status, policemen are not allowed to take their leaves and days off.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd maintained that there is no credible terror threat but he expressed concern that Islamic State jihadists could recruit Filipinos working in the Middle East.
Aquino said Philippine intelligence authorities will ask their Middle East counterparts to monitor possible radicalization within the Filipino community in the region, which numbers up to two million.
“We need to be prudent. We will coordinate with [Middle Eastern] intelligence agencies to monitor these communities to see if they have been influenced by ISIS,” he said, using another acronym for the group.
“We can’t be like an ostrich, which burrows its head in the ground to avoid seeing the problem,” he added.
“Is there a credible threat? Is there a specific threat? There is none. Is there a general threat? Yes. We are not immune from the extremism problem.”
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said it was investigating reports on the presence of ISIS terrorists in the Philippines.
An official of the bureau who asked not to be named said NBI agents are gathering information on the identities of terrorists.
He refused to give more details.
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) also strengthened its security at the premier airport over warnings of terror attacks.
Elite forces of the Aviation Security Group’s (Avsegroup) Special Operations Unit were deployed to the four terminals of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) as part of precautionary measures.
Avsegroup director C/Supt. Pablo Francisco Balagtas said the group also beefed up its K9 units.
Early this month, the Abu Sayyaf extremist group released a video of its members pledging allegiance to IS.
But Aquino belittled the group’s claim, saying they were riding on IS’s notoriety.
On Friday, a top US general—Lloyd Austin—head of the US military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) overseeing Middle East operations, said IS extremists may increase the tempo of their attacks like the ones this week in Istanbul and Jakarta.
“ISIL has assumed a defensive posture in Iraq and Syria,” Austin said. “Going forward, we can expect to see [it]rely increasingly on acts of terrorism such as we saw this week in Baghdad and in Turkey, and most recently in Jakarta,” he added.
WITH BENJIE VERGARA AND AFP