NEGROS ORIENTAL, April 12 (PIA) – Law enforcement agencies in the province has strengthened its security measures particularly along the coast lines following the reported presence of unscrupulous elements in the Visayas region.

In an emergency meeting of the joint security task groups Leon Kilat and Deter, Negros Oriental Governor Roel Ragay Degamo called on the groups to work hand in hand in order to avert any threat on the peace and order situation in the province.

The governor has discussed with the law enforcement groups the pressing concerns on the law and order and internal peace and security in general and the alleged presence of Abu Sayyaf Group planning to conduct criminal activities especially kidnapping, Provincial Information Officer Adrian Sedillo said.

While authorities have earlier allayed fears of possible attacks from criminal elements and ensured the maintenance of peace and order in the Visayas region, Governor Degamo urged them not to let their guards down in the face of the reported movements of the criminal elements from Mindanao.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), through the AFP Central Command, had assured the public that there is nothing to worry about at present since the authorities are working hard to prevent criminal elements from doing their criminal acts in the region.

Sedillo said the Army is continuously monitoring and validating reports regarding the presence of these elements in the Visayas region.

“In fact, during the meeting, authorities received information that an encounter between the 47th IB and an armed group ensued in Inabanga, Bohol,” said Sedillo.

Degamo said there is a need to further strengthen security measures amid all these reports since the Visayas region has gained back its momentum in terms of tourist influx.

He added one single incident of criminal act against tourists will certainly cause the tourism industry in the region to collapse.

“This is what I do not want to happen under my watch as governor of the province and as chair of both the provincial and regional peace and order councils,” the governor said.

He then proceeded to task law enforcement agencies to tap force multipliers such as the bantay dagats, the tanods, the barangay officials, and even the habal-habal drivers and the local government units to be part of the target hardening measures to address the threat.

Leon Kilat is the creation of the provincial government under the peace and order council and is composed of the different law enforcement and civilian authorities while Deter is the creation of the AFP focusing on anti-terrorism and anti-kidnapping activities.

The two task groups have combined efforts after the workshop held early this year which was called upon following reports of movements of criminal elements from Mindanao to unknown point of destinations possibly in the Visayas area.

Degamo has appointed Bimbo Miraflor as the executive director of Task Force Leon Kilat and has also provided a space for JTG Deter in one of the provincial government-owned facilities.

The meeting was presided by Degamo and was attended by representatives coming from the different law enforcement agencies from the various branches of the AFP, the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Coast Guard, the civilian authorities and intelligence community, among others. (rmn/jct/PIA7-Negros Oriental)