I think it is already painfully obvious to Philippine national security planners and to several Filipino bloggers as well: the terrorist attack that brought the city of Mumbai to its knees can happen anywhere in this country. It is a template that any would-be terrorist group can follow and implement, especially in a target-rich environment like Metro Manila with its teeming shopping malls. Can our country’s military and police take these attackers down, or for that matter its emergency response systems handle the inevitable casualties?
It’s a chilling thought.
“The basic strategy: use a large number of attackers to overwhelm a target city’s ability to respond, and then suddenly switch focus to high value targets and seize hostages.”
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“Hotels, office towers and apartment buildings represent large concentrations of people with few access points. They have all been favourite targets for truck bombs for many years, but some counter-terror officers have often wondered how long it would be before some group of gunmen tried to control these buildings rather than destroy them. This is the future face of terrorism.”
It is not as if such an attack on a Philippine population center is beyond the realm of possibility; in fact, it has already occurred. Can anyone still remember the 1995 attack by the Abu Sayyaf on the town of Ipil in what is now Zamboanga Sibugay?
Put another way:
“What’s relevant about the Mumbai model is that it would work in just about any second-tier city in any democratic state: Seize multiple soft targets and overwhelm the municipal infrastructure to the point where any emergency plan will simply be swamped by the sheer scale of events.”
In one important aspect, one particular feature sets potential Metro Manila terrorist targets apart from its Indian counterparts, at least in theory anyway. Unlike the targets chosen by the Mumbai attackers, almost all Philippine luxury hotels, shopping malls, and office buildings are staffed with armed security guards, who frisk visitors and their bags for weapons and explosives. Therefore, any plan intended to thwart a Mumbai-style attack must include provisions to train these men at the front.
Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that many Philippine security guards are ill-trained in handling their firearms, and any refresher training effort must be focused on honing this skill. For example, the security guard directing traffic at the driveway of the Philippine Stock Exchange Center may be armed with what looks like a Galil, but can he unsling his weapon from his chest and fire it in time against attackers similarly equipped with assault rifles?
When push comes to shove, some of these men and women do show their mettle in combat, but what about the rest of their colleagues?
Philippine hospital administrators admit: RP hospitals not yet ready for carnage.
“According to Dr. Glenn Genuino, chief of the burn section of the Philippine General Hospital, the country does not have enough facilities to treat a large number of major to moderate burn victims.
“In the entire country, there are only four hospitals with specialized burn units constantly kept sterile to prevent infection.
“Three are in Metro Manila—Philippine General Hospital with 12 beds, Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center with eight beds, and the East Avenue Medical Center with six beds. The fourth is the Davao Medical Center.”