9:51 pm | Thursday, May 30th, 2013
MANILA, Philippines—Three more countries have issued travel advisories against Mindanao amid the United States’ warning of a “credible kidnap threat” in the Zamboanga Peninsula.
This developed as the Philippines said there was “no specific threat” in the area based on monitoring of law enforcement and security officials.
In a Palace briefing Thursday, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government “respects the prerogative of any country to issue any precautionary measures that they feel their citizens must take while here in our country.”
“In fact, when it comes to our citizens abroad, [other countries] also respect our prerogative to issue this kind of advisory to our countrymen [stationed overseas],” said Valte.
She cited the recent terrorist attack in Boston—which killed three people and injured 264 others—where the Philippine government issued a similar message to Filipino citizens who may be in the area.
In its travel advisory on Wednesday, the US state department cited a report about the resurgence of kidnapping groups, particularly in Zamboanga, that were targeting foreigners.
On Thursday, Australia advised its nationals against traveling to parts of Mindanao, particularly Zamboanga and Sulu, citing a similar warning that the United States had issued its citizens.
“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,” said the Australian government in its advise posted on the government site.
The Australian government also told its citizens to “reconsider” travel to eastern Mindanao.
Citing the same kidnap threat against foreign nationals in Zamboanga, the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office also elevated its travel advise on Western Mindanao.
Canada was more expansive in its advise, calling on its citizens to defer any travel to all of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and its surrounding areas.
The Canadian Foreign Affairs and International Trade office cited a “serious threat of terrorist attacks and kidnapping” in issuing a regional advisory against the ARMM, including the known conflict areas of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Maguindanao, and the Zamboanga Peninsula, Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat among other areas in Central and Western Mindanao.
Davao del Sur was also included in the no-travel list, but Davao City was exempt.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said the Philippines understood the issuance of updated travel advisories, saying it was “normal for any government” to provide travel guidance to its citizens.
DFA Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez said there was no known threat in the areas included in the advisories and assured the public of their safety in traveling to southern Philippines.
“Upon consultations with our PNP (Philippine National Police) and AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and other law enforcement officials, there are no specific threats that had been monitored in that area,” Hernandez said in a press briefing on Thursday.
The AFP said the intelligence gathering and network sharing with other law-enforcement agencies, particularly the PNP, were in place to prevent any untoward incidents that could threaten the peace and stability in the country.
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