An airport police K9 unit inspect baggage during a security check at the departures hall at the Manila International Airport on Wednesday. Image Credit: AFP

Manila: A joint military and police task force were placed on alert to respond to any emergencies following the release of travel advisories by four Western nations that predicted terror attacks in malls, airports, convention centres and other areas in the Philippines.

"We are working with our allies to validate the intelligence information and co-ordinate possible response should the need arises," presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

"As a precaution, the armed forces and the Philippine National Police have been put on heightened alert in the national capital." he added.

"Intelligence units have been gathering information on the sources of foreign terror threats in the Philippines," said Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

Authorities have been monitoring organisations that receive logistical support from extremist groups which were identified as responsible for international terrorist plots," said Brigadier General Jose Mabanta, chief of the military's civil relations service.

Travel advisories

"There are organisations which have possible links with extremist groups. I cannot divulge their names," said Mabanta, who refused to give more details.

In their travel advisories, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States told their respective nationals to avoid travelling to Manila and other parts of the country because of imminent terror attacks there.

"Reliable reports indicate that terrorist attacks may be imminent in Manila, including places frequented by foreigners such as large shopping malls and convention centres," said Australia's travel advisory.

"We strongly advise you not to travel to mainland Mindanao, the Zamboanga Peninsula and the Sulu Archipelago regions of Mindanao ... due to the very high threat of terrorist attack, including kidnapping and related counter-terrorism operations [there]," said Australia's foreign ministry.

"Credible information indicates terrorists may be in the advanced stages of planning attacks. Attacks may be imminent and could occur at any time, anywhere in Mindanao," Australia's advisory said, adding that several foreigners were kidnapped on Sulu Archipelago and Zamboanga Peninsula. A Japanese national has remained in captivity.

Global alert

Reacting to the travel advisories, Lacierda said, "They are part of a global alert about possible terrorist activities, not just in the Philippines but also in other parts of the world."

Philippine authorities have blamed communist insurgents who operate nationwide and separatists based in southern Philippines for bombing, kidnapping of foreigners and other terror attacks.

The Abu Sayyaf Group, also based in the south, have been linked to the Jemaah Islamiyah, the Southeast Asian conduit of the Al Qaida terror group.