Butuan City – The Caraga Police Regional Office 13 (PRO-13), the Surigao del Norte Provincial Police Office (SDNPPO), and the Philippine Army 30th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army stepped up security deployment in the island of Siargao in preparation for this year’s back-to-back national and international surfing tournaments in Cloud 9, General Luna town.
The 19th Siargao National Surfing Cup, sanctioned by the Philippine Surfing Championship Tour is being held from September 16 to 21, 2017, to be followed by the World Surf League’s 23rd International Surfing Cup on September 23 to 30, 2017.
“Appropriate security measures have been put in place. We are doubling all security efforts with at least 163 cops on duty. Reserve forces are on standby, and ready to mobilize to ensure our objective of zero crime incidents during the event,” said Chief Superintendent Rolando B Felix, regional director of the PRO13.
Mary Jean A. Camarin, officer in charge of the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Caraga Region, stated that she is confident about the security preparations in place for the international surfing event.
“We have seen the security plan drawn by the province and we are pleased by the preparation being done to ensure the security of our guests. On our part, we conducted a three-day Tourist Oriented Police for Community Protection or Top-Cop seminar for police security personnel who will be assigned directly where the tourists will be seen. It is essential that our police personnel are properly oriented on how to manage and promote good rapport with our tourists and guests, to make them feel not only secure by being relaxed and worry free for the duration of their stay on the island,” said Camarin.
Data from the DOT-Caraga Region revealed that from January to June 2017, there have been around 55,735 total tourist arrivals in Siargao Island, comprised of 40,421 local visitors and 15,314 foreign guests.
The number of tourists and competitors are expected to rise as this year’s surfing competition is the biggest. The international event alone has a total of 75,000 US dollars in prize money, which is expected to draw more participants from top surfing competitors, after its ranking was upgraded to international Qualifying Series (QS) ranking of QS3,000.
Police Senior Superintendent Antony Maghari, provincial director of SDNPPO, said: “From the existing police force we have in the island, we will be augmenting with around 100 police officers from the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) to ensure tightened security not only for the competitors but for the tourists and general public, as well.”
Maghari pointed out that the RPSB could still be reinforced with personnel from the other police stations in the island.
“Right now we already have several members of our provincial Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit in Siargao Island. Motorcycle units from the eight towns within the island will also reinforce the RPSB contingent. This is a huge leap compared to the augmentation we sent to Siargao last year, which was actually half of what we are deploying this year. This is how serious we are to ensure security for the Philippines biggest annual surfing event,” said Maghari.
“So far we don’t have yet actionable intelligence suggesting imminent danger or threat. Even so, we have put in place the proper security measures, to make sure. We should not be too complacent. We are constantly monitoring for any change in the security risk assessment.”
Maghari added that SDNPPO is meeting with the different resort owners in the island town of General Luna for consultations about further security plans and preparations.
2nLt Jonel G. Castillo, civil military operation officer (CMO) of the 30th Infantry Battalion with jurisdiction over Siargao Island, expressed optimism about the security preparation.
“The security plan is dubbed Oplan Island Ti Capia, this is a joint security plan together with the province of Surigao del Norte, the PNP and other allied agencies. So far, because the event happens every year, we already have ready tailored security preparations, all we need is just to update it and make small changes in terms of deploring the right number of security personnel and assignment points on the ground,” said Castillo.
“We already have our Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) at a patrol base in General Luna, which is fully capable of handling armed conflict in case untoward situations arise. We will also be reinforcing our presence in the island with an additional platoon of fully armed soldiers from the battalion as well as a K-9 unit, as the events get underway.”
Castillo disclosed that the joint security operation has been conducting military simulation exercises as part of the preparation, “such as scenarios for abductions and terror attacks.”
Information from SDNPPO indicated that the province of Surigao del Norte will be allocating a total budget of PhP1.3 million to the PNP, Philippine Army and the Philippine Coast Guard for the international surfing event.
This will include the cost of food, accommodation and transportation of the security personnel in the island. The Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy are expected to provide additional forces during the entire duration of the two-week long back-to-back events.