DIGOS CITY – Village officials here had been ordered to conduct profiling of foreigners living in their areas as the city government attempts to tighten security measures to prevent the city’s use as entry point by extremists coming in via the southern Philippines.
The city is accessible by sea from Indonesia – where most Islamic militants fighting in Marawi City had originated in recent months – using the Celebes Sea and via Sarangani Island.
Mayor Joseph Peñas told reporters the profiling was part of preventive measures he had ordered undertaken to ascertain that no foreign religious extremist was in the city.
“We are just reassuring the public that the city government is not taking for granted the possibility that foreigners with direct links to local and international terror groups could find their way into the city. We need to monitor foreigners at all times so that peace and tranquility in Digos will not be compromised,” Peñas said.
But he said while foreigners were being documented, he had told village officials to use extreme caution and extend courtesy to them such as not forcing them to answer questions relating to their purpose in coming and staying.
“There are many reasons why they are here. They could be mere tourists, married to one of our locals, or have business in the city. There’s no reason for them to fear unless they are into illegal activities contrary to our existing laws,” Peñas said.
At the same time, Peñas urged owners and operators of speed boats, fishing boats and other types of sea vessel to register them with the city government.
He said the move was also aimed at easily identifying sea vessels not owned by any local.
“Once an unregistered vessel is sighted, we can immediately act,” Peñas added.
To further tighten the city’s security, Peñas said he had also decided to ask the military for a formation of a task force similar in nature to the Task Force Davao.
“We needed a task force that would be deployed in our entry and exit points,” he said.
The city is on a delta and serves as entry or exit points to the cities of Kidapawan, Cotabato, Davao, and General Santos.
Peñas said the establishment of the task force was also in deference to a suggestion made by Davao City Sara Duterte for the establishment of border control points in shared boundaries with Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte and Bukidnon.
“This is a very effective way to secure each and every local government unit from criminal elements and even terrorists,” Peñas said.
Inquirer calls for support for the victims in Marawi City
Responding to appeals for help, the Philippine Daily Inquirer is extending its relief to victims of the attacks in Marawi City
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