Military checking on reported terrorist infiltration in Mindanao waters

Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 27 2018 08:15 PM

Marines patrol a deserted street in the center of Marawi City. Froilan Gallardo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The military on Tuesday said it is validating reports that 40 terrorists were able to infiltrate the waters off Southern Philippines.

"We're still closely monitoring. Napakalaki ng ating coastal waters, vast and porous itong ating area. But our forces in Western Mindanao, the Western Mindanao Command and the 1st Infantry Division are closely guarding our coastal waters, southern borders, and these are things that we are closely working [on], together with the Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard," said Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin, Commanding-General of the AFP Civil Relations Service.

"...[W]e have established conventions, established agreements, bilateral, bilateral joint patrols with Malaysia, Indonesia, just to secure our waters," he said. 

Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa had told reporters Monday that terrorists were able to enter the waters off Mindanao. Dela Rosa gave no further details on the alleged infiltration, on who the terrorists are, their affiliation, and nationalities possibly involved. 

Mindanao is proximate to coasts of Indonesia and Malaysia.

Datuin said nothing is confirmed yet from the military side and that they are still awaiting reports from ground units.

Asked if he is aware of reports that recruitment is still on for the Maute group, the Islamic State-linked terror group behind the five-month siege of Marawi City last year, Datuin said the military is still studying the reported recruitment pattern. 

He added that troops are still on their toes, keeping watch to prevent violent extremism.

"We are studying recruitment patterns and styles, psychology of violent extremism and programs to avoid a repeat of Marawi," said Datuin.