Security teams conducted a simulated kidnapping raid on Boracay Island this weekend.
Gunfire and explosions were heard on Saturday as the newly launched Joint Task Force Boracay prepared for the worst by conducting its first training exercise.
In April, we reported how the Islamic State-affiliated Abu Sayyaf terror group launched a foiled raid on the tourist island of Bohol.
Then, earlier this month, the US Embassy in Manila warned that a similar attack could target Palawan Island.
Although no such warnings have singled out the famous white-sand resort of Boracay, security chiefs are taking no chances.
About 100 personnel were involved in the 25-minute exercise to demonstrate and assess the capability of the new joint task force, said its executive director Rowen Aguirre.
The team includes Boracay Tourist Assistance Centre, the island’s police force; the police Maritime Group; the coast guard; Army; Navy; the Bureau of Fire Protection and the local municipal disaster risk reduction and management office.
Mr Aguirre said the task force was set up before the raid on Bohol, which was apparently aimed at snatching tourists from busy resorts on Easter Sunday. The last of the terrorists was killed last week.
However, he added that the Bohol crisis emphasised the need to step up security on the island, despite its distance from the terrorist’s lairs in the far south of the country.
“It would be difficult for them to reach Boracay,” he told The Inquirer, “but not impossible.”
Saturday’s exercise simulated the arrival of a group of armed men bent on kidnapping tourists.
In the exercise, several “kidnappers” were intercepted at a checkpoint, with some killed and others arrested after a firefight using blank bullets.
After a mock interrogation, troops located and disabled improvised explosive devices.
The next part of the exercise involved preventing terrorists from fleeing the island on a stolen boat.