Philippines says taking seriously ISIS threat against Miss Universe show

(Left to right) Miss USA 2015 Olivia Jordan, model Ashley Graham and Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach attend the 2016 Miss USA pageant on June 5, 2016.
(Left to right) Miss USA 2015 Olivia Jordan, model Ashley Graham and Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach attend the 2016 Miss USA pageant on June 5, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (REUTERS) - The Philippines military said on Friday (Aug 12) it was taking seriously what it believed was a call by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants for an attack on the Miss Universe contest being held in the country next year.

The military said a recent bomb-making video posted on social media, apparently by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants in the Middle East, carried a message in Arabic script reading: "create bomb for Miss Universe".

The pageant is due to be held in the capital, Manila, in January. "We are taking the threat seriously," armed forces spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo told reporters, though adding that authorities had yet to establish the authenticity of the video or determine its source.

The Philippines says there are no ISIS militants in the country although the group has accepted, in a video message, the allegiance of a notorious Philippine militant group known as Abu Sayyaf.

"We reiterate that there is no ISIS in the Philippines,"Arevalo said. "What we have are groups claiming affiliations with ISIS in their bid to draw funds. It is not farfetched for ISIS to claim to have cells in the Philippines to show global membership."

The Ministry of Tourism, which helps organise the Miss Universe pageant, was not alarmed by the threat, said ministry spokeswoman Ina Zara-Loyola.

"We consider this as serious as well as the traffic problem that affects our daily life," she said, adding that the authenticity of the video was impossible to verify.

The government was confident the army and police were "more than capable in ensuring the public safety and security", she said.

The Miss Universe beauty pageant, formerly owned by US presidential candidate Donald Trump, has been held in Manila twice before, in 1974 and 1994.

The reigning Miss Universe is Filipina-German model Pia Wurtzbach, the third winner from the Philippines.

On Wednesday, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the army to destroy the Abu Sayyaf group saying if not, the country risked being "contaminated" by ISIS.