KOTA KINABALU: Philippine security officials believe that a group of gunmen holding abducted Taiwanese tourist Chang An Wei are still holed up in one of the smaller islands around the southern Tawi Tawi province.
Philippines National Police Sulu provincial chief Supt Abraham Orbita said inclement sea conditions were preventing the gunmen in bringing the 58-year-old Chang to Jolo island, the stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf terror group.
"At the moment the sea currents are simply too strong for a safe crossing by boat," he told The Star yesterday.
He said police officials had been on the lookout for Chang since her abduction from a chalet at the Pom Pom Island Resort, off Semporna in Sabah's east coast on Nov 15.
"We have not received any report of their arrival in Jolo as yet. It is likely they are still at one of the smaller islands in Tawi Tawi."
Philippines military Sulu Task Force commander Brig Gen Jose Joriel Cenabre had also said that the abductors were likely to be kidnap-for-ransom criminals who intended to turn over their victim to one of the several Abu Sayyaf groups based in Jolo.
Meanwhile, Taiwan's Defence Minister Yen Ming was quoted by Central News Agency as saying that Taiwan already had a unified plan to rescue Chang.
He had said that Taiwan could not simply send troops to the Philippines for that purpose as the abduction was an international case.