AUSTRALIA and the United Kingdom have reminded their citizens to exercise caution while in the Philippines, following the United States’ travel warning for southern Cebu over supposed kidnapping threats.
In separate advisories posted on government websites, Canberra and London echoed Washington’s warning of threats of kidnapping by terrorist groups in some areas frequented by foreign tourists.
The US Embassy in Manila said on November 3 that abductions could be carried out in the southern portion of Cebu province, specifically the areas around Dalaguete and Santander, including Sumilon Island.
“We continue to advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in the Philippines overall. Higher levels apply in some parts of the country,” Canberra’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told Australians.
It continued to advise Australian citizens to “reconsider” the need to travel to eastern Mindanao “due to the very high levels of violent crime and the high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping.”
It urged citizens “not to travel” to central and western Mindanao, including the Zamboanga Peninsula, and the Sulu archipelago and southern Sulu Sea area “due to the very high threat of kidnapping, terrorist attack, violent crime and violent clashes between armed groups.”
The UK government also told its nationals to “remain vigilant at all times” following the US Embassy warning.
“There is a high threat from terrorism, including kidnapping. There has been an increase in kidnapping of foreign nationals since late 2015. It’s likely that terrorist groups continue to plan kidnap operations against western nationals in the region,” the UK advisory said.
The advisories came despite assurances by Michael Lloyd Dino, presidential assistant for the Visayas, that southern Cebu remained safe for tourists.
Citing the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas, Dino said the towns of Dalaguete and Santander, including the island of Sumilon, were “generally peaceful,” and there had been no incidents of kidnapping or violence involving foreigners.
“I am in close coordination with the police authorities in the region. The police have assured me that they do not have any verified reports about the alleged threats,” Dino said in a statement.
The Cabinet official urged the US Embassy to substantiate its advisory.
Regional police earlier reported that members of the Abu Sayyaf terror group were in Cebu province, but later said it was a “false alarm.”