THE Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is anticipating anew a possible spillover to the Visayas of the threat of the Maute terror group amid its proactive patrolling in the region, an official said.
PCG Officer-in-Charge Commodore Joel Garcia, who met with Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. at the Provincial Capitol on July 19, said they have intensified security measures in the Visayan Sea to thwart terror attacks, although no threats have been monitored so far.
“That’s the very reason why we’re here proactively because we’re anticipating such spillover,” said Garcia, who hails from Bago City, Negros Occidental.
He cited the arrest of three suspected members of the Maute group in the port of Iloilo three weeks ago.
“(The arrest) was borne out of proactive intelligence in Cagayan de Oro where the passenger ship came from. Incidentally, those suspected Maute members were able to get through the intelligence dragnet. As the ship sailed towards Iloilo, we were able to alert the sea marshall in the ship and the Coast Guard authorities in Iloilo,” Garcia said.
He noted that shipping companies have been very cooperative with the National Government’s anti-terrorism campaign.
“They know that the security will always be dependent on their cooperation and support to the Coast Guard,” he added.
Garcia said it is the thrust of the government to ward off possible terror attacks.
“Aside from providing Coast Guard presence in ports, we’re looking forward (to deploy manpower) in tourist areas (in the province like) Sipalay City, Cauayan, which has long stretch of coastal area, and Siaton in Negros Oriental,” he said.
Garcia said the national headquarters is also looking to put up a Coast Guard regional office in Negros Island Region (NIR), as well as training center and additional stations and sub-stations, particularly in southern Negros Occidental.
He added that part of their maritime security strategy is “to strengthen Coast Guard presence in this part of the region.”
“We believe Negros is a very important island because of its proximity to Mindanao, (and it is) facing the Sulu Sea,” he said.
Garcia said that Negros Island is a “good place to enhance our Coast Guard system” that will provide support to neighboring regions in the Visayas – Western, Central and Eastern.
“Geographically, if you look at the nautical maps, Negros straddles Sulu Sea, which is facing Mindanao. If we can able to put up Coast Guard stations (in Negros Island) where we can place our ships and fast boats, we can easily react to threats, not only in terrorism but on environmental threats that may pose hazard to marine environment in Sulu area,” he said.
Garcia also said it is part of their strategy to ask for the support of the provincial and local government units.
“We are requesting if they can provide or donate some land area where we can put stations, sub-stations and offices for our Special Operation Group,” he added.