THE UNITED KINGDOM through its Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised its citizens not to travel to Western and Central Mindanao, including Sulu archipelago in southern Philippines, and to the south of Cebu in central Philippines because of terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgent groups.
It an advisory, the FCO said terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in the Philippines, including in Manila.
A passenger jet flies above Cebu in central Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)
Terrorist groups continue to plan attacks and have the capacity and the intent to carry out attacks at anytime and anywhere in the country, including in places visited by foreigners, like airports, shopping malls, public transport, including the metro system, and places of worship. It urged its citizens to remain vigilant at all times. “You should remain vigilant at all times and report anything suspicious to the local authorities,” it said.
“There’s been an increase in kidnapping of foreign nationals, including attacks targeting foreigners and tourists since late 2015. Terrorist groups continue to plan kidnap operations against western nationals in the Philippines. This threat extends throughout the Philippines, both on land and at sea, but is particularly acute in the southern Philippines – Mindanao, Palawan and central Visayas, including Siquijor and Dumaguete,” it added.
A fisherman casts his net in a river. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)
The FCO reminded British citizens that the whole of Mindanao is under martial law until December 31 this year. “There may be curfews and checkpoints. Monitor media reporting and follow the instructions of local authorities,” it said.
“A state of national emergency on account of lawless violence remains in place across the rest of the country. Expect random checkpoints, security patrols and a more visible routine security presence. You should co-operate with the Philippine authorities and allow extra time to pass through security checks. Make sure you carry a form of identification with you,” FCO said.
Around 154,000 British nationals visited the Philippines in 2015 and most visits are trouble-free. In Cebu, Vice Governor Agnes Magpale expressed concern over the inclusion of Southern Cebu on the travel advisory. Magpale, also chairperson of the Provincial Tourism Commission, said she is saddened by the travel warning as this would affect the bilateral agreement she forged with some western countries during the recent international tourism forum she attended in Japan.
A U.S. Navy vessel sails off Zamboanga City in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)
Magpale said some western countries have signified their intention to have a direct flight to Cebu following the recent opening of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Terminal 2.
Magpale said she is really troubled with the travel ban as there have been no reported sightings of communist rebels or any terrorist groups in Southern Cebu, particularly in Dalaguete and Badian, which are popular tourist destinations. “I just hope the Department of Foreign Affairs will do something and will communicate with the British government about this matter,” Magpale said.
Police in Cebu also said that there is no terror threat in Southern Cebu, contrary to the UK travel warning. Superintendent Janet Rafter, chief of the Provincial Investigation and Detection Management Branch, said Southern Cebu has always been a safe place for visitors. “The situation (in Southern Cebu) is normal. As of this moment, we have not received any incident report involving tourists,” Rafter said. (Mindanao Examiner. With a report from Luel Galarpe.)
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