HEIGHTENED SECURITY measures have been activated in various parts of Mindanao following Tuesday’s blast in the island of Basilan that killed 11, including the suspected bomber. In Zamboanga City, the jump-off point to Basilan, Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar convened a meeting on Tuesday and ordered all security forces “to tighten all checkpoints at the entry and exit points of the city, including coastal and sea patrols.” Owners of private jetties have also been requested to strengthen security at their facilities. Ms. Salazar also appealed to the public to cooperate with the stricter security rules as well as be vigilant and report suspicious activities in their areas.
The Philippine National Police-Northern Mindanao regional office (PRO 10), meanwhile, said “precautionary action” is in place to avoid a possible spillover of terrorists into the region. In a statement, PCSupt. Timoteo G. Pacleb said they are “intensifying target hardening intervention in all vital installations and security measures.” PRO-10 Spokesperson Surki A. Sereñas said among these measures are checkpoints in strategic areas.
Prior to the Basilan blast, the Marawi Traffic Management Group already announced that traffic passing through the Mapandi-Lilod Papandayan road will be rerouted beginning the first week of August. This 1.5-kilometer stretch is within Marawi City’s tagged most affected area (MAA), or what was previously referred to as ground zero, by last year’s seige. The Lanao del Sur provincial government said the rerouting was approved following “the discovery of possible unexploded bomb entry points along the said thoroughfare.” Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra said, “It is in the best interest of the City Government to ensure that we do not expose the Maranaos to unnecessary risks that could cause loss of life and property.” Last week, teams from the military’s Combat Engineers and Explosive and Ordinance Division (EOD) were able to identify “three possible entry holes of unexploded bombs” along the Mapandi-Lilod-Panandayan route. The EOD said such unexploded bombs can take “as long as two to three weeks to excavate and requires strict protocols as any sudden vibration, shock or heat build-up can cause the bombs to explode.”
Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo, in a statement late Tuesday, said the Basilan incident should all the more strengthen the country’s efforts in attaining peace and order in Mindanao. “Ang isang lipunang may kapayapaang nakabatay sa katarungan ang pinakamatibay nating kasiguruhan laban sa ganitong uri ng karahasan (A society with peace based on justice is our strongest assurance against these kinds of violence),” Ms. Robredo said. The vice-president also condoled with the families of the victims of the tragedy, trusting also that authorities are ensuring those liable will be charged. — with a report from Charmaine A. Tadalan