'Suicide bomb' theory splits Palace, AFP

Military authorities appear skeptical the twin explosions in Jolo last weekend were suicide bombings despite claims they were by President Rodrigo Duterte and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.

Año said Indonesian suicide bombers guided by the Abu Sayyaf group were the culprits

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday also said he believed suicide bombers were responsible for the blasts, adding forensic investigators of the Philippine National Police were looking at body parts, saying these could belong to two persons—one inside the church and another outside. 

READ: Indonesians tagged in blasts

The bombings immediately sent a security ripple in the country’s major airport facilities while the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines activated Airport Security Committees to prepare against threats of terror and provide safe air transport services to the riding public.

The AFP had said initial investigation suggested the improvised explosive device (IED) that went off inside the cathedral was “remotely” detonated, and that this would already dispel reports of a suicide bombing.

In Manila, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport-Office for Transportation Security instructed personnel to make simultaneous checking of all passengers entering at the initial and final security check to ensure that no firearms or explosives could be smuggled into four airport terminals.

Last Monday, the CAAP initiated security committee meetings in its 12 area centers nationwide to revisit and update the airports’ contingency plans and simulate bomb incident management exercises. 

The authorities discussed various areas of security including aircraft security checks upon disembarkation, aircraft access management, mandatory removal of shoes, In-Flight Catering Security Plan development, and random searches using the Explosive Trace Detection System. 

In the landside and airside areas of airport security, measures such as the deployment of behavioral observation personnel at the passenger terminal building front-of-the-house and landside parking area, increasing security patrol visibility, deployment of government armored assets, K9 Explosive Detection Units, and bomb squad, and the development of a strong security culture amongst airport stakeholders were discussed. 

The committee also discussed updates on the observance and implementation of the (OTS) Security Condition 2 (SECCO 2).

In compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s current National Civil Aviation Security Program and Airport Security Program, SECCO 2 is defined as verifiable intelligence indicating the probability that civil aviation operations have been targeted for attack. 

READ: ‘Bombings no effect on plebiscite’

“SECCO 2 requires further security enhancement from aircraft operators and state agencies, such as the CAAP, to manage the risk of flights,” said CAAP Media Communications chief and spokesman Eric Apolonio.

He said the activation of ASC was set up in view of the recent bombing of the Catholic Cathedral in Jolo that resulted in the deaths of at least 20 victims and the injury of 102 others, and the blast at a mosque in Zamboanga.

The 12 CAAP Area Centers in Laoag, Tuguegarao, Plaridel, Puerto Princesa, Legazpi, Iloilo, Bohol-Panglao, Tacloban, Zamboanga, Laguindingan, Davao, and Butuan; and airports in Jolo, Sanga-Sanga, Pagadian, Dipolog, Ozamis, Cotabato, and General Santos, have each convened with their respective Airport Security Committees to manage and assess risks.

OTS head executive assistant Napoleon Cuaton said all airport in Mindanao has under heightened alert following the bombings. “Our security forces in Mindanao airports were given directives to be extra vigilant.”

He added that strict security measures in Mindanao had been enforced as well as other airports in Visayas and Luzon including the NAIA.

Cuaton said passengers and airport users at the NAIA would encounter or undergo again rigid inspection due to heightened alert status.

READ: ISIS owns up to Jolo blasts

READ: Army-Sayyaf clash: 8 dead, 20 wounded

Topics: twin explosions , Rodrigo Duterte , Eduardo Año , Delfin Lorenzana , suicide bombers
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