MANILA - President Benigno Aquino III appealed to the United Kingdom to go easy on its travel advisories for the Philippines amid reports of a terrorist threat in Davao City in Mindanao, which he said was "raw."
"We cannot blame the English government. I assume that they will also seek to be very extra cautious, and of course we will appeal to them na is the amount of caution commensurate to the Red? And at this point in time, we are winning the battle against them but it is still a battle ongoing," he told reporters on Tuesday.
Aquino explained why he had to personally inform Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in a telephone call about the threat.
"There was and there is an ongoing operation against this very long sought-after terrorist with international links. I passed on to Mayor Duterte a raw report -- may I emphasize 'raw.' I just wanted to make sure that he was given all of the pertinent information to adequately prepare Davao," he said.
"The raw report stated that this terrorist who is a bomb-maker had sent a bomb or a bomb-laden vehicle to Davao City to further a terrorist attack. So the mayor, as head of the Peace and Order Council for Davao City, should be made aware of pertinent information so that he has the wherewithal to adequately prepare his community for it," he added.
This means it is still subject to further verification. "Both the PNP (Philippine National Police) and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) are actively determining the validity of the report and continuing operations against this known terrorist."
Aquino justified the need to inform Duterte even if the information is still up for verification.
He cited a recent experience when there was an operation that netted the arrest of a suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) member in Parañaque City.
He said K-9 units deployed inside the safehouse of the Abu Sayyaf indicated the presence of explosives.
No explosives were found after an extensive search.
"Since this guy was a known terrorist, member of the Abu Sayyaf in the NCR, we have treated it very, very seriously. Was he here to lie low because there are operations against him in his lair in Mindanao? Or was he here to foment some terroristic activities? So at the present time, he is already under custody and we are still following up all of the available leads to ensure the safety of everybody in the Philippines," Aquino said.
The President left open the possibility that like the case in Parañaque, the threat in Davao may turn out to be a dud.
"We are not discounting any possibility, but we want to err on the side of caution. And that's why we informed the good mayor that there is such a report and we emphasized it is raw," he said.