Manila - Given the "cyclical nature" of terrorist attacks in the Philippines, the government is expecting a major attack on Metro Manila and other cities anytime between now and the third week of September. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita assured the nation that the administration was not using terrorism as a bogey to deflect public attention from the scandals engulfing President Gloria Arroyo.
National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales noted that the country seemed to suffer from a major terrorist attack every six months or so - the last one being the Valentine's Day bombings in Makati, General Santos and Davao cities.
"So it (the new attack) is about this coming month. We are expecting a major attack in Metro Manila," Mr Gonzales said on Aug 31.
Intelligence reports from local and Indonesian sources indicate that at least 10 suicide bombers have entered the country. Four of them are in the metropolis.
Mr Gonzales said the terrorists had planned to use 1,000kg of explosives but the government confiscated 600kg in a recent operation. But the amount of explosives still in terrorist hands is still cause for much alarm since their counterparts in London needed just 10kg of explosives to create havoc in the city during the July bombings.
"They are already in a serious stage of planning for a wave of attacks," Mr Gonzales said.
A day earlier, Executive Secretary Ermita said the threat of a major terrorist attack is an "honest-to-goodness threat". He said the public should not be surprised if from time to time the military goes on heightened alert.
"This is a continuing watch. Don't be alarmed whenever there are announcements of heightened alert because our objective is to ensure the security of the citizenry," he said. He added that the terrorists could sabotage antigovernment protests to create chaos.
In an editorial, The Philippine Star said the country's leaders should ensure that public safety was not compromised amid the "continuing political circus".
"The Philippines has had enough experience with this threat to know that security forces cannot be distracted from the war on terror, no matter how riveting political scandals may be."
* September 'terrorist month' - Gonzales (The Manila Times, Sept 1)
* No room for complacency (The Philippine Star, Sept 1)
* Ermita says terrorist threat not a distraction (The Manila Times, Aug 31)