THE US Department of State-Bureau of Consular Affairs has again issued a travel warning to its citizens to the Philippines specifically those travelling in various parts in Mindanao.
In its travel warning posted May 20, 2015 on its website, US warned of the risks of travel to “the Sulu Archipelago, certain regions and cities of the island of Mindanao, and the southern Sulu Sea area.”
“The Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated November 20, 2014, and reflects continuing threats in those areas due to terrorist and insurgent activities. US citizens should continue to defer non-essential travel to the Sulu Archipelago, due to the high threat of kidnapping of international travelers and violence linked to insurgency and terrorism there,” the advisory said.
“Based on a history of kidnappings and attempted kidnappings of foreigners in the Eastern Sabah province of Malaysia and in the southern Sulu Sea area by terrorist or insurgent groups based in the Sulu Archipelago, U.S. citizens should continue to exercise extreme caution if considering travel in the southern Sulu Sea region from the southern tip of Palawan, along the coast of Sabah, Malaysia and the islands of the Sulu Archipelago, up to Zamboanga City, Mindanao,” it added.
In its advisory, the US identified the separatist and terrorist groups which “continue to conduct bombings, kidnappings and attacks against civilians, political leaders, and Philippine security forces, in particular, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).”
According to the US Department of State, BIFF remains active in the Cotabato City area, and in the Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat provinces, where the government maintains a state of emergency and a greater police presence.
“U.S. citizens should also continue to exercise extreme caution if traveling to certain regions and cities of the island of Mindanao,” it said.
However saying that “there have been no reports of U.S. citizens in Mindanao targeted specifically for their nationality,” the advisory maintained that “general threats to U.S. citizens and other foreigners throughout Mindanao remain a concern.”
“There have been no recent reported terrorist threats or incidents within the Davao City or Surigao city limits,” it said.
“Although U.S. government officials in the Philippines travel to Mindanao for official business without incident, the Embassy has imposed a strict restriction on all but the most essential travel to the area, and Embassy employees must receive special authorization from Embassy security officials to travel to any location in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago.”
The US has also asked its citizen to contact its embassy or consular office for further development of the new advisory.