Philippines says terror warnings wrong

THE Philippines says that Western governments were wrong in warning of an imminent terrorist attack in Manila, as it downplayed the arrests of five men and the seizure of explosives.

After France became the sixth country to warn its citizens of the supposed threat, President Benigno Aquino said his government would again convey its belief that there was not sufficient evidence to back up the warnings.

“We will communicate the same with France… in the most diplomatic way possible that there is an urgent request from our country not to be inflicted this harm if the basis isn’t that concrete,” President Aquino said.

The US, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand issued travel advisories this week warning an attack may occur at any time in the Philippine capital, and that areas frequented by foreigners were potential targets.

President Aquino said yesterday that foreign security agencies had informed his government that a group he did not name planned to assassinate two foreign envoys as well as security officials in the Philippines.

Filipino security forces were placed on heightened alert but President Aquino said “there is no adequate basis” for the warnings.

President Aquino and Assistant Foreign Secretary Ed Malaya said they regretted the six countries had not relayed the specifics of the supposed threat to Manila before releasing their advisories.

“According to our security agencies (these) are unverified and raw and therefore in fact there was no need perhaps to have issued the travel advisories at all,” Mr Malaya said over local television on Friday.

“If they (the foreign governments) are getting intelligence information from their own sources and then they pass that to us, then indeed we would be grateful.”

Amid the heightened security alert, police said today they had arrested five people and seized materials used for making explosives but drew no link to the international warnings.  Four men were arrested for allegedly stealing explosives from a private firm based at the mouth of Manila Bay on Wednesday.

Police said they recovered 12.5 kilograms of the explosive compound called Magnapex buried in the yard of one of the suspects’ homes.  Eighteen sacks of ammonium nitrate, a fertiliser sometimes used to manufacture improvised explosives, were also seized from the home of one of the other suspects, said a report released by the national police headquarters.

But police and the army said the explosives seized were most likely intended for illegal fishing. Some fishermen illegally toss explosives into the water to stun fish.  One of the detained suspects was facing separate charges of allegedly selling explosives to fishermen, said Senior Superintendent Arnold Gunnacao, the police chief of nearby Bataan province.

Asked if there was any link between the arrests and the alleged terrorist threat, armed forces spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Arnulfo Burgos referred AFP to the police report.  “We were told they were intended for illegal fishing,” he said.

Meanwhile, police in the southern city of Cotabato said they arrested yesterday a man who was carrying a kilo of ammonium nitrate and three improvised blasting caps containing explosives.

Cotabato police chief Willie Dangane said the case was still being investigated and no other details were immediately available.

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