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AFP's Western Command: Palawan is safe

The Armed Forces of the Philippines' Western Command on Wednesday assured the public and tourists that Palawan is safe.

"We understand the concern and responsibility of the US government on their citizens' welfare, and for such issued a warning on possible terrorists activities in Palawan... Western Command shares the same concern," said the Western Command (WesCom), which has jurisdiction over Palawan, Kalayaan and the disputed Spratly Island group.

In the statement, which was posted on Facebook, WesCom indicated the hashtag #PalawanisSafe.

It said several months before the US Embassy issued the travel advisory, it had beefed up security measures for the summer as tourists are expected to flock to the province.

"In fact, we remain on heightened alert, but assures the public that Palawan, being one of the most beautiful places in the world, is safe for both local and foreign nationals, residing in and/or visiting the province, including Puerto Princesa," WesCom said.

It added that it had been in close coordination with the Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the provincial government in providing security in the province.

"All our units and assets are being utilized to ensure maximum security," it said.

WesCom said coast guard patrol boats and Marines and Navy ships and personnel are deployed in potential target areas in the province.

The PNP, it added, had also doubled its security deployment.

PNP spokesman Senior Superintendent Dionardo Carlos said they are validating the US Embassy's information.

Interagency task groups were also deployed in tourist areas including Puerto Princesa Underground River, Coron, El Nido , Sabang, Hnda Bay, Balabac, Bataraza, Rio Tuba, and Brookes Point, the military command said.

The US Embassy's advisory, which was also relayed by the embassies of United Kingdom and Canada to their citizens in the Philippines, warned of a "credible information" that terrorist groups are planning to kidnap foreigners in Palawan province, particularly in the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.

WesCom said checkpoints had been set up in vital tourists destinations, resorts and other public places in the province.

It also assured that Palawan residents are also vigilant and have been "coordinating with us on relevant information vital to public safety."

"We are all doing our very best, together with other agencies, in denying any terrorist groups entry and access in the high seas and coastal areas," WesCom added.

"We urge the public to remain calm and vigilant. Your AFP and other government forces are here and will protect and secure you," it said.

Meanwhile, AFP public affairs chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said that the military has not received any specific threat to Palawan.

Arevalo said they not taking the US Embassy's travel advisory lightly, but said that the AFP will not deploy additional troops to the province.

We are not deploying more troops apart from those airmen, sailors, marines and select units of the army in the area for the moment. But definitely our Techniques, Tactics, and Procedures are evolving to address 'thinking enemies' who adjust theirs as well to pose terror threats," he said. —ALG, GMA News