Camiguin raises alert as gov’t troops, Abu Sayyaf bandits clash in Bohol

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY- Authorities in the island- province of Camiguin, a popular tourist destination in Northern Mindanao, heightened their security as government troops and members of the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group clashed in Bohol on Tuesday.

Reports said that five Abu Sayyaf bandits and four government troops were killed following the clash in Inabanga town.

Joint police and military forces engaged the bandits after residents informed authorities of the presence of heavily armed persons on board three motorized boats along the river in Barangay Ilaya in Inabanga town.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Superintendent Reggie OAate, Camiguin police deputy provincial director for operations, said the police and the local government units in the island intensified their security as they closely watch the development in Bohol in anticipation of the possible spill over of the gunfight to the island.

Mambajao Mayor Jurdin Jesus Romualdo, in a text message Tuesday afternoon, said that the local government was monitoring the situation in Bohol as tourists visiting the White Island and Mantigue Island, two of the tourist spots in Camiguin, were not evacuated.

The White and Mantigue islands are both facing the southern part of Bohol. Camiguin island is about 182 nautical (535 kms) southeast of Bohol island.

Camiguin is four hours away from the southern town of Jagna, Bohol by boat. Jagna is about two hours' drive from Inabanga, the site of the confrontation.

"It is business as usual," Romualdo said, referring to the situation in Camiguin, but advised residents and visitors to be on alert and to report to law enforcers any suspicious-looking persons in their vicinity.

OAate said that the eruption of violence in Bohol will have "no effect" on the religious activities in Camiguin, particularly the yearly "Panaad" (vows) that is part of the observance of the Holy Week in the area.

OAate said the island is generally peaceful.

In an interview on April 3, Superintendent Wilber Salaguste, the former Camiguin provincial deputy director for administration, said that 200 police officers in the island are on full alert and those who are on leave were recalled to secure the island not just during Holy Week but for the summer months.

"Aside from Panaad, we also have a security plan for the entire summer," Salaguste said prior to his reassignment.

"Panaad" is a yearly act of penitence for devotees who walk the island's 70-kilometer circumferential road during the Holy Week.

He said the province's police force was divided into groups and were assigned to keep watch on various parts of the island, especially vital infrastructures, business establishments and tourist spots.

Source: Philippines News Agency