MANILA—Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday urged the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to take terror threats in Palawan seriously and learn from past experiences.
Lacson, former PNP chief, made this remark after the US Embassy, on its website, warned its citizens against traveling to Palawan as it has received information that some terrorist groups are planning to abduct foreign nationals in the province.
Threatened by purported terrorist activities in Palawan are Puerto Princesa City and areas surrounding the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.
“We should take it seriously. Past experience would tell us that if they have an advisory like that, it’s not just plucked from thin air, they have basis. They have intelligence,” Lacson told reporters in an interview.
Lacson, however, said that he was confident that the AFP has been taking the necessary precautions.
“…I trust the AFP and the PNP are already doing something about that advisory,” he added.
AFP Public Affairs Office Chief Col. Edgard Arevalo earlier said that the AFP respects the US government’s decision to issue a travel advisory warning but has yet to detect any threat that could compromise the safety of tourists.
Despite not having monitored threats in Palawan, Arevalo said that the AFP is not taking the report lightly.
He said that whether this is a threat or not, the AFP takes all reports seriously and they will continue their monitoring activities and remain vigilant of all eventualities.
Lacson said the AFP does not want to unnecessarily cause alarm because it has an impact to tourism.
Asked if it was proper for the US Embassy to issue travel warnings before AFP confirms possible terror threats, Lacson said that the AFP withheld information for “obvious reasons.”
“(The embassies) are concerned about the safety of their citizens. We have the same information but we’re not sharing it for obvious reasons. Because while we are checking the information, we don’t want to necessarily alarm the international community, specifically tourists that visit our country,” he added.
On April, several foreign travel warnings were issued against Central Visayas due to the encounter between security forces and a terror group in Bohol.
The Department of Tourism earlier called on embassies to issue “fair” travel advisories against countries that were dependent on tourism.
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, meanwhile, assured that despite some cancelled bookings, this would not affect the target of achieving the 7-million foreign tourist arrivals by yearend.
“Every time there are travel advisories, tourism numbers lie low for a while. But after a month, tourists return. Cancellations are minimal,” Teo said.