Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said there was no monitored imminent threat of a terror attack in the country after the Japanese government issued an alert against possible heightened terror activities in six Southeast Asian countries including the Philippines.
Lorenzana, in an online press briefing Thursday, September 16, revealed that the country’s threat alert has been “moderate” since the last terror attacks occured — the twin bombings of Jolo Cathedral in Sulu in January 2019 and the bombing of a military detachment in Lamitan, Basilan in 2018. Both were considered as suicide bombings.
“Mayroon tayong mga moderate threat kasi hindi naman bumaba ‘yong threat natin mula noong magkaroon tayo ng huling bombing sa Jolo at saka dito sa detachment sa Basilan. Nandyan pa rin ‘yong threat alam natin pero hindi naman mataas kasi wala naman tayong nakikitang indication na mayroong attack (We have moderate threat because we have not downgraded the threat [level] since the bombing in Jolo and at the detachment in Basilan. We still have the threats and we know that, but it’s not that high because we have not seen indications that there will be another attack),” the Defense Chief said.
“Relax lang kayo mga mamamayan dahil wala naman tayong nakikitang imminent threat, na terrorist threat sa bansa natin (The public can relax because we don’t see any imminent threat, a terrorist threat in our country),” he added.
Earlier this week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan alerted its citizens living abroad of possible “increased risks” of terror activities such as suicide bombings in the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Myanmar.
Lorenzana admitted that he was “surprised” by Tokyo’s warning since the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has not informed him of any concerning terror activity in the country as of late.
“Tayo’y nagpapasalamat sa Japan for sharing with us the information na natanggap nila. But alam niyo naman itong ating bansa ay napakarami ng experience sa terror acts nitong mga nakaraang dalawampung taon kaya sa bandang akin, hindi na natin kailangan pa ang warning na ‘yan dahil alam natin ang gagawin natin. Alam natin ang mga consequence ng terror attack (We thank Japan for sharing with us the information that they received. But our country has so many experiences in terms of dealing with terror activities in the past 20 years so for me, we no longer need that warning because we already know what to do. We know the consequence of a terror attack),” he said.
Lorenzana said the DND has already contacted the defense attache of the Philippines in the Japanese Embassy to relay the details of Japan’s warning so they can verify it.
“Hindi pa naman nagfe-feedback pero kailangan malaman natin ‘yong mga details ng sinasabi nilang attack kasi hindi naman tayo manghuhula kung anong ibig sabihin niyang tinatawag na attack, kung ano ang basehan niyan, saan galing ang report, kailangan nangyari ang report at sino ang kumuha. So napakaraming tanong ang dapat masagot dyan ng Japan (We have yet to receive a feedback but we need to know the details of this attack because we are not fortune-tellers to guess what it means, its basis, where the report came from, when the report happened, and who obtained it. So there are a lot of questions that Japan needs to answer),” he noted.
Nonetheless, the Defense Chief assured the public that the military is on top of the security situation as they continue to monitor the movements of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), and other small local terrorist groups especially those situated in Mindanao.
“As far as the AFP is concerned, wala naman tayong dapat ipangamba (we have nothing to worry about),” Lorenzana said.