Manila – The Philippines is ill-equipped to deal with a chemical or biological attack by terrorists because its cash-strapped police have neither the equipment nor the technology to handle these "dirty weapons" of mass destruction.
The issue of bioterrorism was raised by Mr Henry Crumpton, the US State Department's counter-terrorism coordinator, during a visit to the Philippines last week.
Mr Crumpton warned that Southeast Asia is facing a growing threat of bioterrorism and urged the countries in the region to be prepared to confront it.
He said that Al-Qaeda and its Southeast Asian affiliate, Jemaah Islamiah, have made their intentions to use biological and chemical weapons "abundantly clear" in their statements and training manuals. He cited the discovery of alleged anthrax laboratories in Afghanistan in 2001-2002.
In response to Mr Crumpton's warning, a Philippine police official told The Manila Times that a chemical or biological attack would leave the country's security forces completely helpless.
"We need decontamination chambers, suits, gas masks, and training to prepare against such an attack. But we have not invested on such equipment and measures," the official, who requested anonymity, said on Oct 23.
The official said the technology to counter biochemical warfare is available from advanced countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan. But the Philippine National Police (PNP) do not have the money to buy them.
He added that the least the PNP could do is to start training its units to handle a biochemical attack and launch an information campaign to keep the people aware and alert.
"The basic do's and don'ts are not enough. We just can't keep on crossing our fingers that these groups (terrorists) won't think of this eventually,” he added.
* RP can't fight bioterror (The Manila Times, Oct 24)