Philippines reviews security protocols after terror attacks

A soldier inspects the damage caused by an explosion inside a Roman Catholic Church cathedral on Jolo island in the southern Philippines on January 28, 2019. (Reuters file photo)
Updated 10 July 2019
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Philippines reviews security protocols after terror attacks

  • Decision follows 3 incidents in past year and arrests of foreigner militants

MANILA: Recent terror attacks on Mindanao island, believed to be perpetrated by foreign suicide bombers, have pushed Philippine officials to review the country’s security protocols, the spokesman for the Department of National Defense (DND) said on Tuesday.
This comes in the wake of the arrests of suspected foreign terrorists, including a Kenyan who was studying to become a pilot at an aviation school in Zambales province on Luzon island. 
Arsenio Andolong, director of the DND’s Public Affairs Service, told Arab News that to prevent other terror attacks, the government needs to “review and study how best it can address the problem.”
He cited a need to tighten border security and immigration policy, and amend the Human Security Act.
Three terror attacks have been recorded in the past year. In July 2018, a Moroccan drove up to a military checkpoint in the city of Lamitan and detonated a bomb, killing 10 people, including himself. 
In January this year, 23 people died and more than 100 were injured in an attack on a church in Jolo municipality, carried out by an Indonesian couple assisted by members of the Abu Sayyaf Group.
On June 29, eight people died in an attack on the army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team (1BCT) in Indanan municipality. 
Also killed in the incident were the two suspects. One of them is allegedly the son of the Moroccan involved in the Lamitan attack, while the other is believed to be a Filipino. 
Also last month, a suspected Pakistani terrorist was arrested in Zamboanga city. And on July 1, Kenyan Cholo Abdi Abdullah, 28, an alleged member of the Al-Shabaab Islamist insurgent group in Somalia, was arrested in Zambales province.
“It isn’t yet confirmed, but in all likelihood it might be a suicide bombing,” Andolong said of the attack on 1BCT.
“That changes the ballgame. That means we’ll have to review our current security protocols, and that will entail many things.”
The Bureau of Immigration will have to work with its counterparts in other countries, Andolong said.
“We want tourists … but we also have security considerations that we now have to think about,” he added.
“Because of these latest incidents, there will definitely be a review in terms of the influx of foreigners into the country,” he said. “The intelligence community will have to also change the way it works.”
The Defense Department and military have to rethink how they locate military camps in the southern Philippines, as some of them are located in villages with a large population, he said.
Andolong also cited the need to push for the amendment of the Human Security Act to give more teeth to the campaign against terrorism.
“Because of the way they fashioned the Human Security Act, and even martial law, when a suspect gets caught, you only have three days to file a case against them,” he said.
“What we’re working on are tips, information from other intelligence agencies. Sometimes it’s difficult to vet the identity of the guy, so what we can do only is, on mere suspicion, we capture him, detain him and question him, but we can’t hold him for more than three days,” Andolong added.
“We really have to retool the way we deal with them. We have to review and study how best we can do this.”
Meanwhile, the military is looking into reports that an Egyptian couple who are already in the Philippines are planning to bomb another church in Jolo.
The couple are reportedly linked to the Indonesians responsible for January’s Jolo cathedral attack.
Col. Noel Detoyato, head of the public affairs office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said this information will be processed by intelligence units for confirmation.
Western Mindanao Command spokesman Maj. Arvin Encinas said it has not received information on the alleged plot, but it will be looked into. 
The command has monitored plans by local terror groups to conduct attacks using improvised explosive devices, particularly in the provinces of Sulu and Basilan.


Widespread blackout hits Venezuela, government blames ‘electromagnetic attack’

People pour to the streets in Caracas on July 22, 2019 as the capital and other parts of Venezuela are being hit by a massive power cut. (AFP)
Updated 1 min 32 sec ago
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Widespread blackout hits Venezuela, government blames ‘electromagnetic attack’

  • Venezuelan Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said the outage on Monday was caused by an “electromagnetic attack,” without providing evidence

CARACAS: More than half of Venezuela’s 23 states lost power on Monday, according to Reuters witnesses and reports on social media, a blackout the government blamed on an “electromagnetic attack.”
It was the first blackout to include the capital, Caracas, since March, when the government blamed the opposition and United States for a series of power outages that left millions of people without running water and telecommunications.
The blackouts exacerbated an economic crisis that has halved the size of the economy.
Venezuelan Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said the outage on Monday was caused by an “electromagnetic attack,” without providing evidence. He added that authorities were in the process of re-establishing service.
Power returned for about 10 minutes to parts of southeastern Bolivar state, site of the Guri hydroelectric dam — the source of most of Venezuela’s generation — but went out again, according to a Reuters witness. Electricity was still out throughout Caracas.
“It terrifies me to think we are facing a national blackout again,” said Maria Luisa Rivero, a 45-year-old business owner from the city of Valencia, in the central state of Carabobo.
“The first thing I did was run to freeze my food so that it does not go bad like it did like the last time in March. It costs a lot to buy food just to lose it,” she said.
The oil-rich country’s hyperinflationary economic crisis has led to widespread shortages in food and medicine, prompting over 4 million Venezuelans to leave the country.
Venezuela’s national power grid has fallen into disrepair after years of inadequate investment and maintenance, according to the opposition and power experts.
“These blackouts are catastrophic,” said 51-year-old janitor Bernardina Guerra, who lives in Caracas. “I live in the eastern part of the city and there the lights go out every day. Each day things are worse.”