NOVEMBER 24, 2006 (STAR) President Arroyo urged local government officials yesterday to help security forces fight terrorism.

"We can’t lightly take the fact that activities being perpetrated by local terrorists enjoy the support and funding of foreign terrorist organizations and that is the reason why we must have concerted effort against this threat," Mrs. Arroyo told local officials at the conclusion of the two-day National Forum on Internal Security and Anti-Terrorism at Clark Field, Pampanga.

Mrs. Arroyo reiterated her order to run down the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and prevent them from imposing "revolutionary taxation" in the countryside.

For their part, the governors and mayors who attended the forum agreed to coordinate measures to neutralize the communist influence in their areas and thwart terror attacks.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said the security plans drawn up during the two-day workshop include deputizing barangay tanods (village watchmen) as "force multipliers" to assist the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in its anti-insurgency program at the grassroots level.

Local officials have agreed to streamline their respective action plans to immediately address the insurgency and terror threat in their respective localities, Puno said.

At the same time, Mrs. Arroyo ordered PNP chief Director General Oscar Calderon to improve the anti-crime efforts, with emphasis on illegal drugs and street crimes.

Calderon, for his part, reported "significant" improvement in the peace and order situation in the country, citing statistics showing significant improvement in crime prevention during the first 10 months of the year. — Cecille Suerte Felipe

Gonzales: Terrorists going in and out of RP By Cecille Suerte Felipe The Philippine Star 11/24/2006

National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales confirmed yesterday that despite the government’s intensified campaign against terrorism, more foreign terrorists were able to slip into the country.

Gonzales told a press briefing at the National Forum on Internal Security and Anti-Terrorism held at the Holiday Inn at the Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga, that the foreign terrorists are trying to link up with Indonesians Dulmatin and Umar Patek, members of the Jemaah Islamiyah who are both wanted for the bombings in Bali, Indonesia that killed 202 people in 2002.

"Meron (foreign terrorists) pa talaga... hindi lang sila (Dulmatin and Patek). Those are the principals. We have monitored that they (foreign terrorists) are coming in and out," said Gonzales. "But I would say that their numbers are manageable. That’s why the alert level in Mindanao has been downgraded," added Gonzales, who refused to divulge more details about the terrorists, members of the Jemaah Islamiyah.

Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar Calderon admitted that local terror groups such as the Abu Sayyaf and the communist New People’s Army remain strong.

Calderon, however, assured the safety of the heads of state who will be arriving in the country for the Asean Leaders’ Summit in December in Cebu with the deployment of about 7,000 policemen in the summit venues.

"I can assure the delegates that they will be secured when they come here. PNP preparations from the arrival to the departure of delegates have already been set up," said Calderon.

Intelligence information indicated that some foreign terrorists have established an alliance with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Abu Sayyaf.

Calderon gave an update on the peace and order situation in the country during the forum attended by Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno and other officials from the interior department, the police, National Police Commission, governors and mayors.

"Abu Sayyaf bandits, together with the JI and Rajah Solaiman Islamic Movement (RSIM), plan to mount terror operations to ease the pressure of military offensives (against Dulmatin and Patek)," Calderon said.

The PNP chief said that despite the extensive military operations against Indonesians Dulmatin and Patek in Sulu, "it should be noted that the Abu Sayyaf that is coddling these foreign terrorists remains very potent and dangerous."

Intelligence units reported that more than 500 Abu Sayyaf bandits are protecting the Indonesians.

Calderon said the bandits have been planning to go on a kidnapping spree and attack villages in the area to divert the attention of the military.

The terrorists’ plan include the seajacking of a commercial ship and holding the passengers hostage.

Calderon said another terrorist plan is to rescue detained Abu Sayyaf members at the Basilan Provincial Jail and conduct bombings of commercial areas in major urban centers in Mindanao.

Meanwhile, Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. has ordered a redeployment of more than 7,000 government troops conducting offensive operations against the Abu Sayyaf bandits protecting Dulmatin and Patek in Sulu.

The military’s operation dubbed Oplan Ultimatum started last Aug. 1 but the offensive has not resulted in the arrest or killing of the terror suspects after four months of operations.

Esperon said the Indonesians are still holed up in Sulu, despite reports that Dulmatin had slipped out and is now reportedly in Lanao, while their main coddler Abu Sayyaf chief Khadaffy Janjalani had returned to Basilan. — Jaime Laude

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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