THE anti-terrorism task force of the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental is looking to strengthen its communication lines with the community to counter terror threats.
Task Force Buglas, chaired by Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr., held its first planning workshop at Nature’s Village Resort in Talisay City on June 28 to draft policies and actions to address the terrorism threats in the province.
Provincial Planning and Development Coordinator Ma. Lina Sanogal said the “most crucial” action plan of the task force is the information dissemination down to the grassroots level.
Sanogal, task force executive director, said there is a need for community involvement as they are the “first line of defense” of the barangays and coastal areas.
“Their role is crucial. If they see suspicious persons or activities, it’s important that they can be able to relay it right away to authorities so it will be addressed immediately,” Sanogal said, adding that the community should be able to participate.
She said the task force will focus on educating the community and their participation in the anti-terrorism campaign.
“Our immediate focus is information drive and to strengthen communication mobility and lines so there will be immediate reporting (among the communities),” Sanogal said.
She added that structures in the community, including media, schools, barangays, local government units, and churches, will be mobilized for the information advocacy to “let people understand the terror threat.”
Also, during the meeting on Wednesday, the task force identified five possible terrorism scenarios like bombing, “lone wolf attack,” kidnapping, hijacking, and seajacking, and has drafted various courses of actions and activities to be taken before, during, and after the occurrence of such incidents.
The task groups have also come up with proposed budgets to support their various programs, including equipment and personnel that will be sourced from the Peace and Order and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management funds.
Sanogal said the Capitol has an annual P50-million Peace and Order fund.
She added that the task force will also enjoin the business sector to strengthen its anti-terrorism measures, as it is cheaper to invest in preventive measures than repair and rehabilitate the economic disaster caused by terror attacks.
These include putting up appropriate number of security personnel, training of more K9 units, enhancement of x-ray machines and bomb detectors.
Vice Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, who spoke at the planning workshop, stressed the need to have the help and support of the masses in thwarting the threats.
Lacson, task force vice chairperson, said the situation in Marawi City is something that he does not want to happen in the province as he emphasized the need for all sectors to cooperate in preventing all forms of violence.
The workshop was also attended by representatives of various government agencies, non-government organizations, police, military, and civil society groups.
The task force is composed of seven task groups focusing on anti-criminality, internal security, coast watch, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, critical infrastructures and bio-physical security, communication, and information, education and advocacy.
Under the executive order creating the task force signed by Marañon on June 8, the task force shall ensure the proper coordination of different agencies to protect Negros Occidental from the threat of terrorism, crime and other lawless elements; coordinate to efficiently provide humanitarian assistance during times of crisis and disasters; strengthen communication linkages with communities to immediately gather reliable information that needs swift action; promote community awareness on their roles on law enforcement and public safety; and perform other functions that may be necessary for the purpose of sustaining peace and order and public safety.
Sanogal said the task force will hold another workshop meeting next week to “harmonize and refine” their action plans and budgets needed for the anti-terrorism campaign.