POLICE Regional Office 9 director, Brigadier General Emmanuel Luis D. Licup, yesterday assured that all security efforts are in place to ensure the safety and protection of local and foreign tourists visiting summer destinations in Western Mindanao where a significant reduction in terror and kidnapping cases have been recorded since 2016.
“We are doing everything to keep the whole Zamboanga Peninsula safe with the help of different local government units and our counterparts from the Armed Forces of the Philippines particularly when it comes to threats posed by lawless elements including the Abu Sayyaf Group,” said the member of Philippine Military Academy ‘Hinirang’ Class of 1989.
Licup tagged the ISIS-inspired Abu Sayyaf as the main threat in peace and prosperity in the region followed by local terrorist groups like New People’s Army and lawless elements including breakaway factions from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front.
“We particularly have intensified our operations against these groups which are known for sowing terror specifically kidnapping and extortion activities in Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga City and Isabela City in Basilan province. I have also ordered my field units to see to it that they have full coordination with local tourism authorities to help secure our visitors, both foreign and domestic tourists,” the PRO9 director said.
Licup said visitors especially foreigners should refrain from going to far-flung areas without coordinating their visit with the police and the military. Records will show that local terrorists have seized tourists in places where there are no security troops.
PRO9 data showed that since 2016, the local police have already accounted for 79 wanted Abu Sayyaf members, four of them killed in gunbattles and 75 others now in jail facing non-bailable criminal charges including kidnapping with serious illegal detention, multiple murder, arson and extortion.
Licup said they have also reduced incidents of kidnappings-for-ransom in the region since 2016 to date with only 25 incidents investigated nine in 2016; three in 2017; and in 2018.
He said that during the period in review, 22 KFR victims were either released by their captors or rescued by security forces from captivity. Three others are still being held hostage by their kidnappers.
Licup also credited the implementation of martial law in the entire Zamboanga peninsula, the relentless government offensive against the Abu Sayyaf and the various target-hardening measures instituted by the police and the military as the main reasons behind the reduction of Abu Sayyaf activities in the region.
“We have weakened the Abu Sayyaf’s capability to engage in kidnapping in the region due to these three factors. Moreover, the intensified crack down on this dreaded group, persistent police operations of the local police and defection of some of its members in the nearby provinces damaged the groups’ capability to launch their terror activities,” he said.
Licup encouraged the public to help them fight pro-ISIS groups specifically Abu Sayyaf by immediately reporting the presence of armed groups as well as illegal weapons and unattended bags and packages to the nearest police or military station.
The official spoke as President Duterte warned tourists against visiting some parts of Zamboanga peninsula specifically Sulu.”Some Europeans go there for bird watching and they are captured and eventually they are decapitated even after the payment of ransom,” the former Davao City mayor said in referring to kidnappings-for-ransom perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf.
Licup said the ‘whole-of-government’approach’ in addressing peace and order problems in Zamboanga peninsula has resulted in a much better security condition in the region. He cited the valuable help police are getting from local government units and other agencies as well as different law enforcement agencies specifically the military in curbing down kidnappings in the region since 2016.