MANILA: Philippine police chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar on Monday ordered officers to intensify intelligence monitoring and patrols along the borders of the Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi (BASULTA) provinces to guard against the delta variant of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“I visited our police personnel in Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi to know about the security situation there and check on their welfare amid the continuing threat posed by COVID-19, especially with the delta variant, which is now a serious problem in Indonesia,” Eleazar said in a statement.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) chief added that Sunday’s visit reviewed security measures for preventing the illegal entry of nonresidents, particularly from neighboring countries experiencing a surge in COVID-19 infections largely driven by the delta variant.
The Philippines shares its borders with Indonesia and Malaysia in Mindanao, with the porous border in the south reportedly being used for smuggling activities, including “those who want to easily get in and out of the Philippines.”
It is also used as a port of entry and exit by travelers on illegal ferries to parts of Indonesia and Malaysia.
Eleazar said local policemen in BASULTA exhibited “high morale” as they continue to play a vital role in ensuring safety from both terrorism and the virus.
“Aside from our local forces, I also gave instructions to our regional commanders, particularly the Maritime Group, to beef up border control against those coming from Indonesia and Malaysia,” he said.
On Wednesday last week, the Philippine government added Indonesia to its list of countries with strict travel restrictions as it continues to experience a record-high number of COVID-19 cases, which health experts attributed to the delta variant.
Eleazar also directed the PNP Administrative Support for COVID-19 Task Force (ASCOTF) to prepare for a “worst-case scenario” after health officials reported 35 delta variant cases from across the country on Friday.
On Monday, the Department of Health (DoH) reported 5,651 new COVID-19 cases in the country, bringing the total to 1,513,396, while the death toll stood at 26,786. There are 47,561 active cases.
The Philippines has fully vaccinated more than 4,708,073 individuals, while 10,388,188 have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, according to the DoH data.
Local police forces and the Maritime Group have also been asked to coordinate with local government units, the coast guard and the military for tighter measures to seal the southern border from illegal entrants.
Meanwhile, Eleazar said a directive had been issued for PNP Lt. Gen. Joselito Vera Cruz, the deputy chief for Administration and concurrent ASCOTF commander, to provide medical equipment and supplies to police officers deployed to the frontlines.
“I have also ordered Police Lt. Gen. Bong Dickson, our Joint Task Force COVID-19 Shield commander, to intensify coordination with local government units in the enforcement of health protocols in our communities,” he added, reiterating the need for the public to observe health protocols strictly.