PH in list of countries with most terror attacks

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THE PHILIPPINES is among five countries where most terrorist attacks occurred in 2016, according to an annual report released by the US State Department.

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Based on the Country Reports on Terrorism 2016, of the terrorist attacks that took place in 104 countries last year, 55 percent occurred in five countries — Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and the Philippines.

The report also noted a decrease in the total number of terrorist attacks by nine percent and deaths caused by terrorism by 13 percent.

“In 2016, terrorist groups continued to exploit ungoverned territory and ongoing conflict to expand their reach. ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) remained the top terrorist threat in 2016, directing and inspiring terrorist cells, networks, and individuals around the world,” the report said.

In the Philippines, domestic and international terrorism remained a serious problem as shown by the existence of Islamic State-affiliated extremist groups, persistent kidnappings by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), attacks on government forces and bombings.

“Terrorist groups retained the ability and intent to conduct bombings, shootings, and ambushes against targets of their choice, as seen in a November 28 incident in which a bomb was discovered and disarmed near the US Embassy in Manila,” the report added.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, according to the State Department report, were unable to prevent numerous attacks against government and private facilities particularly in central and western Mindanao despite counterterrorism efforts.

“Terrorist groups retained the ability and intent to conduct bombings, shootings, and ambushes against targets of their choice, as seen in a November 28 incident in which a bomb was discovered and disarmed near the US Embassy in Manila,” the report added.

It also noted that President Rodrigo Duterte’s focus on anti-narcotics and counterterrorism operations slowed progress toward shifting internal security functions from the AFP to the PNP.

But while the Philippines is among the top five countries with most terrorist attacks, the report noted that the country continued to make progress in fighting terror. The report cited the efforts of the Philippine government to work with the Global Counterterrorism Forum to apply the Rome Memorandum on Good Practices for Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Violent Extremist Offenders.

The Anti-Terrorism Council also conducted a national consultation on countering violent extremism, producing a set of recommendations to formulate a national action plan to prevent and counter violent extremism.

Continued cooperation between the Philippine government and the US Pacific Command’s Military Information Support Team also helped improve counter-terrorism efforts of the country.

The report also cited the Philippines active participation in trainings, workshops, dialogues, and working group meetings with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Regional Forum, Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, Interpol, Aseanapol (Asean Chief of Police) and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime among others.

The Philippines has signed a framework on trilateral cooperation with Malaysia and Indonesia to address maritime security.

Whole system approach

Reacting to the report, Malacañang said the government has confronting terror threats through a “whole system” approach.

“First and foremost, we’ve been fighting terrorism in the Philippines for many years. And a month and a half into his presidency, the President had already warned the military of what he termed the ‘ISIS disease,’” Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters.

“We are really confronting it, engaging the situation with the whole systems approach,” he added.
Abella said the government considers poverty as among the factors that triggered other Moro people to join extremist groups.

He thus said that a Comprehensive Peace Roadmap had been approved to achieve peace and order in the country.

“We recognize that poverty in Mindanao and the sense of hopelessness it brings spawns terrorism. It is for this reason that while we are fighting terrorism, we are also fighting poverty,” Abella said.

With Catherine Valente

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