Manila – International terrorists seeking to enter the Philippines to carry out their dirty work may have been using a relatively unsecured entry point: Fishports. Immigration officials are concerned that the operatives of international terror groups may enter the country disguised as crewmen of foreign fishing vessels.
"For all we know, that scheme has been used by terrorists to avoid being detected, particularly in Mindanao," a top official of the Bureau of Immigration, Associate Commissioner for Mindanao Franklin Littaua Littaua, said in an interview on Oct 2.
He cited Davao fishport in Toril as one point where foreigners can easily gain entry into the country by bribing local immigration officials.
"The immigration bureau has boarding officers to inspect the documents of the crews on board, but they don't do their job. Sometimes, they are seen accompanying the vessels' crews in nightclubs," Mr Littaua said.
At least 150 foreign vessels, manned by Indonesians and Chinese, enter the Davao fishport each month.
"If it is true in Davao, it could also be true in other parts of the country," he said. Mr Littaua also did not rule out the possibility of the fishports being used as entry points for illegal drugs, guns and illegal aliens.
Last week, amid continuing threats of terrorist attacks, Commisioner Alipio Fernandez Jr visited Mindanao to look into the Immigration Bureau's surveillance operations on a number of Mindanao-based Indonesians and other foreigners who entered the country illegally.
Mr Fernandez said his bureau was coordinating with other government intelligence agencies to flush out 23 suspected Indonesian members of the terrorist Jemaah Islamiah.
He said the undocumented foreigners entered the country through the "southern backdoor". Thousands of Indonesians are living in Davao City, General SantosCity and other Mindanao cities. Many have married Filipinos and have lived there for the past 10 to 15 years.
*Fishports as entry points of terrorists (The Manila Times, Nov 3)