Mall security guards in the Philippines will be required to carry firearms after recent attacks at shopping centres, police said Thursday, despite growing anger over the huge number of guns in the country.
Opposition to the widespread presence of guns has been sparked by a recent series of fatal shootings, many involving children.
Director General Alan Purisima, the national police chief, said it would be "mandatory" for mall guards to be carry firearms and they could do so whether it was the policy of the individual mall or not.
"We have supervisory powers. If (the guards) do not follow (our orders), maybe we can cancel their licences. We won't be lenient. We will be very strict," he said, adding that during past attacks unarmed guards had been "sitting ducks".
Guards would also be required to undergo re-training in using firearms and marksmanship, he said.
The move came in response to recent attacks in popular Manila shopping malls, including the ransacking of a mall jewellery store on Saturday, said the police chief.
Purisima insisted that armed guards, which are a common sight in the Philippines, would not put shoppers off going to malls.
He did not say how many security guards would be affected by the order. The association for private security agencies said on its website they have 500,000 personnel throughout the country.
A nationwide ban on carrying firearms was introduced earlier this month aimed at curbing violence ahead of mid-term elections in May, but security guards are generally exempted from such pre-poll bans.