Philippines wages high-tech war on terror ‘bad guys’

From left, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, Philippines' Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Singapore's Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen share a moment before a ministerial roundtable at the 17th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue, an annual defense and security forum in Asia, in Singapore on June 3. (AP Photo)
Updated 05 June 2018

Philippines wages high-tech war on terror ‘bad guys’

  • Philippines defense department is boosting its high-tech capabilities to fight terrorism.
  • Facial-recognition technology and bigger drones are among sophisticated tech systems targeting extremists.

MANILA: The Philippines is turning to high-tech defense systems including facial-recognition software and bigger drones to combat terrorism.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has revealed government plans to boost the country’s technological capabilities as part of counterterrorism efforts.

“We are looking at facial-recognition software so that we can easily track down the bad guys,” Lorenzana said in an interview on Tuesday.

The Philippines army has bought ScanEagle drones from the US for use in low-altitude surveillance. US forces stationed in Mindanao are also using small drones with powerful signaling capabilities, he said.

“When our order for bigger drones arrives, it will improve our intelligence capabilities,” he said.

Lorenzana said extremists were also using sophisticated technologies to spread propaganda and gain an advantage in clashes with government forces.

The defense chief said that during the five-month battle in Marawi last year, militants had used drones, which were shot down by Philippine troops.

Terrorists were using technology for recruitment, to plan their movements and to send money.

“During the Marawi siege, my people recommended that we shut down the Internet there because the Mautes inside were sending pictures and messages outside,” he said, referring to the Daesh-inspired group that staged the attack.

Lorenzana agreed that intelligence capabilities “are only as good as the people who manage them and who interpret the data.

“We still need human intelligence, people who go down and see things on the ground with their own eyes and feel what’s happening on the ground so they can report to headquarters,” he said.

The interview with Lorenzana took place in Singapore on the sidelines of the 17th Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s leading defense summit.

International security consultant Stephen Cutler praised the Philippine defense department’s plan to upgrade its tech capabilities.

Facial-recognition systems were being used in other countries and were highly effective, he said.

“Say they get pictures of these (militants) with Daesh flags. Even if they’re wearing a bandana across their nose and lower face, facial recognition could theoretically allow us (to identify them). If those guys have already been arrested, we could run a still photo of that camp in the picture (or video) and figure out who’s in the camp.”

Cutler was chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation operations in the Philippines for five years before retiring after a 22-year career in FBI.

He warned that the government had to establish trust among people that its technology was not being abused.

“That would demand strong adherence to data privacy law. It will demand proven ethical behavior on the part of the government.

“This is an argument that has gone on in every nation around the world that is using this (technology),” he said.

Spain: Storm death toll up to 7, major river floods feared

Updated 3 min 25 sec ago

Spain: Storm death toll up to 7, major river floods feared

MADRID: Three more people have died as a result of a fierce storm that has battered Spain for the past three days, authorities said Wednesday, raising the death toll to seven.
Fears increased that heavy rains expected later Wednesday could lead to several swollen rivers breaking their banks, among them the Onyar river that flows through the northeastern city of Gerona .
The body of a missing man was found Wednesday in a flooded area near the town of Callosa, in southeastern Spain, the local Valencia regional government said.
It added that a woman was killed when her apartment building partially collapsed in the town of Alcoy, following heavy rains.
In the southeastern town of Nijar, a farmer was found dead in a plastic greenhouse that had been hit by a hail storm, according to the private Spanish news agency Europa Press.
Four other people died between Sunday and Tuesday.
Searches continued for several missing people.
Since Sunday, the storm has hit mostly eastern areas of Spain with hail, heavy snow and high winds, while huge waves smashed into towns on the Mediterranean coast and the nearby islands of Mallorca and Menorca.
Weather forecasts said the worst of the storm had passed by Wednesday.
Transport authorities said the bad weather forced the closure of more than 200 roads. Schools canceled classes for more than 5,700 pupils.
Officials in Barcelona said the city’s beaches lost much of their sand due to the high, powerful surf.
Rubén del Campo, spokesman for national weather service AEMET, said he expected that once all data was collected the storm will have been one of the strongest on record. Some areas saw their heaviest rainfall in more than 70 years.