MALACAÑANG on Sunday said the Philippines will join the global fight against terrorism as President Benigno Aquino 3rd vowed “to be right there” with other world leaders in facing such threat.
With the issuance by the UN Security Council of a resolution authorizing nations to “take all necessary measures” to fight Islamic State (IS) jihadists after a wave of attacks across the world, the Philippines is laying down the groundwork for a military blitz against the Abu Sayyaf Group and other local organizations linked to international terrorist networks such as Al Qaeda and Islamic State jihadists.
The UN resolution came after gunmen besieged a luxury hotel in the Malian capital Bamako, killing 19 people, most of them foreigners.
“We will continue to fight terrorism in all its forms,” Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said on Sunday. “The fight against terrorism will continue. The President mentioned that we will be right there.”
According to him, the Philippines has “always been active and we have always cooperated” with other countries in preventing the entry and monitoring activities of suspected terrorists.
“One of the important components also in the fight against terrorism is the intelligence sharing among countries. We have seen that and we have a number of intelligence sharing with other countries, [and]we benefit from each other,” Lacierda explained.
He called on Filipinos to do their share by being vigilant and by reporting to authorities suspicious activities of a person or groups.
“Let’s cooperate and let’s be vigilant. Let’s cooperate with authorities. Terrorism knows no borders now, and therefore we need to cooperate with whatever advisories the government will put out,” Lacierda said.
“Second, we also need to be vigilant. For instance, if there are packages which are not ours or which are very suspicious, just report it to the proper authorities,” he added.
Lacierda noted that prompt reporting of any suspicious activity could save lives.
“We have media advisories [and]warnings especially in areas that are favorite targets [of terrorists]. We would ask everyone to cooperate and to be vigilant. That is our contribution to the fight against terrorism,” he said.
As Brussels declared a security lockdown on Sunday because of a possible terror strike in wake of the hotel attack in Mali and the wave of bombings in Paris, the Armed Forces of the Philippines has also geared up for an anti-terror offensive.
Armed Forces chief Hernando Iriberri met with key military commanders in Mindanao over the weekend to map out the execution of the President’s order for intensified operations against the Abu Sayyaf and other terror groups, a military official said also on Sunday.
“The chief of staff visited Western and Eastern Mindanao commands over the weekend primarily to install new commanders in both the area commands and at the same time coordinate with our forces in the field for implementation of the President’s orders,” Col. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman, said.
He however did not discuss details of the operations for security reasons.
Iriberri, according to Padilla, met with newly-installed Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Maj. Gen. Mayoralgo de la Cruz and officials of the Eastern Mindanao Command led by its new commander, Maj. Gen. Reynaldo Guerrero, to strengthen the campaign against terrorists and other lawless elements in the South.
He said Iriberri made sure that Aquino’s order to step up the fight against terror groups will reach ground commanders.
“Even before the instructions of the President had reached the field, there have been measures that were implemented on the ground especially in Western Mindanao command,” the military spokesman added.
He said de la Cruz will review the previous campaign plan and see if there are adjustments to be made before implementing it.
Padilla said he is optimistic that de la Cruz, referred to in the military as a “steel warrior,” will deliver “good results” in the offensive against terrorist groups.
“With the fine showing that was done by the outgoing [Westmincom] [chief]Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, the AFP is optimistic that Gen. Mayoralgo dela Cruz’s leadership will likewise create results, or will provide good results in the campaign against lawless elements, terrorist groups in the area,” he added.
De la Cruz succeeded Guerrero, who will retire on Tuesday upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.