JANUARY 23, 2007 (OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY) MALACANANG - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered a ban on the deployment of overseas contract workers to Nigeria following the abduction of six Filipino oil workers by militants last Saturday, Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio R. Bunye said today.

"The President is monitoring the situation as the Department of Foreign Affairs works in the field in coordination with the Nigerian authorities to ensure the safety and secure the release of the kidnapped victims," Bunye said in a statement.

"In the meantime, the President has ordered a temporary halt to deployments to Nigeria until the security of our nationals is guaranteed," he added.

The six Filipino nationals were working as crew members of a cargo ship when they were abducted by a rebel group in the Niger Delta, the latest in a string of kidnappings in the oil-rich African country.

They were reportedly forced off the German-operated cargo ship while sailing the Niger River delta en route to the port town of Warri, Delta State's capital.

The DFA said the identities of the kidnapped Filipino workers have yet to be known.

Reports said there has been a sharp rise in oil worker kidnapping and attacks on oil installations in Nigeria since the beginning of 2006.

PGMA: 2007 will be a watershed for national security

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said today the year 2007 is the turning point in the country's national security as the government continues to gain ground in crushing the Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the communist New People's Army (NPA) terrorists.

"This year will be a watershed for national security as we mop up the remnants of the Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao and continue to blunt the tactical edge of the New People's Army," the President said in a statement.

The President's statement came on the heels of the confirmation of the death of Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani, followed by the killing last week of another Abu Sayyaf leader, Abu Solaiman, and the military's determination to exploit the "leaderless" terror group and eventually wipe it out.

The campaign of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) against the terrorist groups gained another success with the killing of at least 30 NPA rebels in an encounter with Philippine Army troopers in Albuera, Leyte over the weekend.

The President said the fight against terror and insurgency could best be ended with a strategy that combines military offensives, good governance, the people's vigilance and strong partnerships with regional and global allies, and through interfaith dialogues.

Wiping out the Abu Sayyaf and the NPA terrorists is tantamount to achieving peace and development in the country, President Arroyo said.

"The end of terror will spell a quantum leap in peace and development in Mindanao backed by interfaith solidarity and international support," the President said.

"Meanwhile, we shall continue to strengthen the ramparts of democracy by cutting off the tentacles of the NPA that impose revolutionary taxes on the people and campaign taxes on candidates for the polls," she added.

The President expressed confidence that the high morale of the soldiers, together with the support of the Filipino people, will ensure the complete success of the government's fight against terror and insurgency.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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