MANILA - Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has asked Japan's Defense Attache in its embassy in Manila to provide more details on the notice its government issued to its nationals about possible terror attacks in six Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines.
Lorenzana said Thursday that the details are important so security forces would know more about the warning and take appropriate actions.
The Department of National Defense (DND) said it has yet to receive any message from Japanese officials.
“Kino-contact na natin ang defense attache nila sa Pilipinas. Di pa nagfi-feedback. Dapat malaman natin ang details ng sinasabing attack, ang basehan niyan, saan galing ang report, kailan nangyari ang report, sino ang kumuha," Lorenzana told reporters in a virtual press conference.
(We are contacting Japan's defense attache here in the Philippines. But we have yet to receive feedback. We should know the basic details about the report -- where did it come from? When did it happen? Who got it?)
"Napakaraming tanong na dapat masagot ng Japan na nag-issue ng warning. Meron na tayong efforts through the Japanese Embassy,” he said.
(There are so many questions that Japan should answer. We already made efforts through the Japanese Embassy.)
On Monday, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised its citizens in the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar to stay away from religious facilities and crowds.
The Japanese government supposedly received information on possible terror attacks or suicide bombings in these countries.
Lorenzana said the warning from Japanese authorities no longer alarms him, citing the Philippines’ experience with terror attacks in the last 20 years.
In August last year, twin blasts rocked Sulu in the southern Philippines, killing and wounding government forces and civilians.
“Hindi naman shocked. Nagulat lang na galing sa Japan kasi mas marami tayong terror attacks dito sa atin kaysa Japan. Palaging naka-alert ang tropa. Our troops know the brainwork about terrorism,” the defense chief said.
(We are not that shocked, but it was just unexpected that the information came from Japan. We have encountered many terror attacks here compared in Japan. Our troops are always on alert.)
The United States, which Lorenzana said has more intense intel gathering than Japan's, has also yet to inform them about potential terror threat in the country.
This does not discount, however, what Japan knows about the matter, according to him.
"Although, we do not know, baka may inside info sa Japan na nag-mo-monitor sila ng mga terorista sa region. Isa pa, yung ASEAN countries, 10 'yan, nagtutulungan 'yan," he explained.
(Maybe Japan knows something we do not since they are monitoring terrorists also. Also, 10 of the ASEAN countries are working hand in hand.)
"We share info with each other kung may terrorist movements. How come nalusutan ang ASEAN, at Japan ang nagka-information? Kailangan malaman natin. We should know the details of the report, so we can assess the veracity and truthfulness of the report, at makapaghanda tayo."
(We share information with each other regarding terrorism. Why did the ASEAN miss it while Japan did not? We should know it so we can prepare.)
The current threat level in the Philippines is “moderate,” Lorenzana said, noting that authorities do not see any signs of a possible terror attack.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines has yet to spot any signs of an "imminent attack."
"Palagi pa ring pinapaigting ang monitoring at intel gathering sa mga grupo na andito sa atin… Wala naman tayong nakikitang ikakabahala natin. Under control naman. Yung police wala namang nakikitang imminent attack sa atin,” the official said.
(We always boost our monitoring and intel gathering regarding these. So far, we have not flagged anything that is bothering. Everything is under control. The police has also yet to find any threat of imminent attack.)
“Yung moderate threat natin, matagal na 'yan dahil sa experience natin. Moderate is mataas konti ang level of alert para handa tayo. Hindi yung mataas na mataas. Nasa gitna, so the security sector ay magkaroon ng incentive o duty to improve or go further in their intel gathering and monitoring of threat groups,” he explained.
(Moderate threat has been up for a while because of what we have been experiencing. That level of alert is there so we could prepare. The moderate classification does not mean the alert level is high. It's for our security sectors to go further in monitoring threat groups and in conducting intel gathering.)
The Philippines has been on heightened alert since extremists took siege of the southern city of Marawi in 2017, noted Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque.
"Nagpapasalamat po tayo sa impormasyon," he said of Japan's alert. "Pero lalo lang po nating pinaiigting ang ating kahandaan para po harapin ang posibleng terroristic attack muli ‘no."
(We are thankful for the information. We will just step up our preparedness to face this possible terroristic attack.)
Roque asked the public to report suspicious people or objects to the police.
Lorenzana assured the public that the AFP and the Philippine National Police are continuously working to protect the country from terrorist threats.
In July 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the controversial anti-terror law in a bid to boost efforts against terrorism, despite concerns from groups that it might lead to human rights violations.