KOTA KINABALU - Philippines security forces have yet to offer any positive indications on the whereabouts of two foreign women snatched by gunmen from Semporna's Singamata Reef Resort five days ago.
While security forces continue checking out information from informants and villagers, no positive word has emerged on the location of the gunmen and their hostages Gao Huayun, 29, from Shanghai and Filipina resort worker Marcy Dayawan, 40.
The seven gunmen, believed to be led by Murphy Ambang Ladjia aka Haji Gulam, a former Moro National Liberation Front member who joined the Abu Sayyaf, are widely believed to be in the Sulu area after fleeing their base in Tawi Tawi.
The gunmen, who are said to be trying to enter Jolo island to hand over the hostages to splinter Abu Sayyaf groups, are believed to be holed up in Pandami island, where Gulam is a native.
Senior Philippines military officials remain non-committal about the whereabouts of the hostages or the gunmen.
Malaysian security forces have said that the two hostages were alive and well based on intelligence received last Friday.
The gunmen had contacted Gao's family shortly after the 10.30pm kidnap on April 2, but since then, there have been no other calls for ransom.
Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) commander Lt-Gen Rustic Guerrero told the Phillipines media that the search was focused on Tawi-Tawi and Sulu provinces.
However, he declined to specify the exact search areas so as not to jeopardise ongoing military operations.
"It takes a lot of resources and effort to cover (the sea areas). The sea area is so huge and we have limitations," he said, adding that they did not have any definite confirmation that the group who fled in boats was now on land.