US report: Philippines remains a destination for foreign terrorists

Abu Sayyaf members pose with an Islamic State flag | Inquirer.net photo

THE Philippines remains a top destination for foreign terrorists despite the government’s continued efforts to enforce measures against security threats, a recent U.S. State Department study found.

In its Country Reports on Terrorism 2019 released on Wednesday, June 24, the United States found that the Philippine government struggled to apply a concerted approach to prevent terror attacks, as foreign fighters from Indonesia, Malaysia, and countries in the Middle East and Europe continued to arrive in the Philippines.

The report also cited terror groups, such as the Abu Sayyaf, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Ansar al-Khalifa Philippines (AKP) and the Maute group, which were all active in 2019 and linked to the Middle East-based Islamic State.

“The Abu Sayyaf Group has committed kidnappings-for-ransom, bombings, ambushes of security personnel, public beheadings, assassinations, and extortion,” the report said.

It noted that ASG was responsible for incidents like conducting kidnapping-for-ransom operations targeting Canadian, Norwegian, German, and Filipino citizens in 2016 and 2017, killing nine people and injured others in an attack on Basilan Island in August 2017, and detonating a car bomb at a military checkpoint on Basilan Island, killing 10 people, including a Philippine soldier and pro-government militia.

The report also tackled the continued attacks of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing New People’s Army on security forces and civilians in the country.

“The CPP/NPA primarily targets Philippine security forces, government officials, local infrastructure, and businesses that refuse to pay extortion, or ‘revolutionary taxes.’ The CPP/NPA also has a history of attacking U.S. interests in the Philippines,” the report said.

It added, “Over the past several years, the CPP/NPA has continued to carry out killings, raids, kidnappings, acts of extortion, and other forms of violence primarily directed against Philippine security forces.”

According to the report, the CPP/NPA’s most deadly attack happened in April 2019, when they detonated bombs by an improvised landmine in a surprise early morning attack clash in Samar, killing six Philippine troops.

The government has made some strides in compliance with United Nations Security Council (UNSCR) 2396, which included trying to curb terrorist travel and improving information sharing with foreign partners.

However, the report noted that the proposed amendments to strengthen the 2007 Human Security Act are still pending in Congress as of the end of 2019.

The controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which seeks to strengthen the HSA, has yet to be signed by President Rodrigo Duterte. He has 30 days to act on the legislation or else the bill will lapse into law 30 days after receipt.

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