More must be done to prevent attacks, former Philippines president warns Efforts by Southeast Asian governments to prevent another Bali-style bombing have been criticised as inadequate by experts and even a former leader, who have put forward their own suggestions. Scores of alleged Muslim extremists, including the suspected leaders of the regional terrorism group Jemaah Islamiah, have been arrested since the attacks last October 12. But researchers agree growing Islamic fundamentalism since the American-led war in Iraq has increased the risks. Former Philippine president Fidel Ramos last week outlined a plan he said had already won written approval from his country's leader, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. It calls on the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to each provide 50 of their best intelligence, security and military personnel for a 150-strong force to uncover and prevent terrorist attacks. Mr Ramos said during a visit to Hong Kong that an agreement signed by the three nations to share intelligence was insufficient and that his proposal would complete the arrangement. The taskforce would have permission to operate in each of the countries. 'It would be able to pre-empt, prevent or instantly mitigate any actual threat in the region of Southeast Asia,' he said. Mrs Arroyo was consulting defence, intelligence and security officials and would formally propose the idea to the leaders of Indonesia and Malaysia. If approved, Singapore and Thailand could join later. 'The force would include the best people available for certain disciplines for such a unit,' Mr Ramos said. The idea received mixed reaction from Southeast Asian counterterrorism experts. Senior fellow with the Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies in Hawaii, Paul Smith, called it 'one of the better ideas'. 'Understanding the local environment is an integral part of rooting out terrorism and that's something that this proposal would achieve,' Mr Smith said. He said the Bali bombings, a suicide attack on the American-owned Marriott hotel in Jakarta last month and plots against targets in Thailand - all blamed on Jemaah Islamiah - had given the region's governments a greater sense of urgency to fight the threat. Previously, there had been a sense of denial, he believed. 'There's a feeling that something has to be done quickly to root this out,' Mr Smith said. 'It's almost like a cancer - it has to be caught early before it spreads.' But the director of terrorism studies at Australian National University's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Clive Williams, rejected Mr Ramos' plan. Instead, he suggested a counterterrorism centre should be established in Brunei. 'A lot of things need to be done at a national level in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, perhaps with intervention of a third party, before something like Mr Ramos' idea is useful,' Dr Williams said. 'Strategically, these countries also need to think about the long-term issues and that's quite a different situation.' He characterised the terrorism threat in each of the countries as different. In the Philippines, the government and the Muslim majority in the southern islands needed to strike a peace deal. Indonesia's problems lay in Jemaah Islamiah. The group was also a threat in Malaysia, where other Islamic sects had also emerged. The extent of the problem was unclear in Thailand, where the government had until July denied the existence of terrorist cells. 'That doesn't mean that there shouldn't be close co-operation between police forces, immigration and customs officials in the region, but it's much better done on a multilateral basis,' Dr Williams said. 'The best way would be through a counterterrorism centre in Brunei, with representatives from all the regional countries.'