MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday, May 30, refuted travel warnings issued by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia over supposed security threats in Mindanao.
In a press conference, DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said “there are no specific threats that have been monitored in that area” based on consultations with the police, military, and other law enforcement agencies.
Hernandez said the US, UK, and Australia might have gotten information from other sources.
He noted issuing travel advisories “is normal for any government.” He said the Philippines itself does this in case of security or safety problems in various parts of the world, such as Libya, Syria, Egypt, and even Boston in the US.
“We nevertheless wish to assure the public including foreign visitors that the Philippine government continues to undertake appropriate measures to ensure the safety of the public,” Hernandez said.
The travel warnings from all 3 countries cited threats of kidnapping.
In an emergency message on Wednesday, May 29, the US Embassy warned US citizens about “a credible threat of a terrorist kidnapping-for-ransom plot against foreigners.”
The embassy said the threat affects the Zamboanga area. It said the warning stands until June 12.
“As a result, the embassy advises all American citizens residing in or planning to travel to the Zamboanga area to re-evaluate their personal safety situation and consider postponing travel to this area at this time,” the US Embassy said.
In another warning, the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised “against all travel to southwest Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago because of ongoing terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgent groups.”
The FCO also advised against “all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao for the same reasons.”
The office cited a “high threat from terrorism, including kidnapping.”
Citing the US Embassy’s warning, Australia also warned its citizens against travelling to Mindanao.
“We continue to strongly advise you not to travel to central and western Mindanao, including the Zamboanga peninsula and Sulu archipelago, due to the very high threat of terrorist attack, kidnapping, violent crime, and violent clashes between armed groups,” Australia said.
Last weekend, members of the Abu Sayyaf ambushed Marines in Sulu, killing 7 soldiers. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is in peace talks with the government, has mobilized its forces to help soldiers seize the perpetrators. – Rappler.com