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US warns citizens vs traveling to Palawan

The United States Embassy in Manila yesterday issued an advisory warning its citizens that Islamist militant groups may be planning to kidnap foreigners in Palawan, including Puerto Princesa City, and areas surrounding the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.

The US Embassy said the threat is based on credible information, advising its citizens to carefully consider the information when making travel plans, review personal security plans, avoid large crowds and gatherings, and remain vigilant at all times.

The United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade also updated their travel advice for the Philippines to include the US Embassy advisory.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said it respects the US government’s decision to issue the travel advisory.

But it said that it has yet to detect any threat that could compromise the safety of tourists visiting the island.

“We respect the issuance of the US travel advisory. We recognize that it is both an obligation and right of a sovereign state. We do that to our own nationals sojourning abroad,” AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said.

“But in so far as that report is concerned, we have not monitored any threat specific to Palawan. But that doesn’t mean that we are taking the report lightly, although the AFP is not the source of that information made as the basis of the US travel advisory,” he added.

Whether this is a threat or not, Arevalo said the AFP takes all reports seriously and they will continue their monitoring activities and remain vigilant of all eventualities.

There has been an increase in the number of kidnapping incidents involving foreign nationals in the Philippines since late 2015.

Until recently, the threat posed by the Abu Sayyaf Group and its affiliates was largely confined to chronically unstable parts of Mindanao and areas of the Sulu and Celebes Seas. (Roy C. Mabasa and Francis T. Wakefield)

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