• Palace downplays travel warnings

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    MALACAÑANG on Thursday allayed fears of possible kidnapping of foreigners in Mindanao by local terrorist groups as stated in various travel warnings issued by four countries—the United States, Great Britain, Australia and Canada.

    Citing “credible threat” to foreigners in Zamboanga City and other areas of western Min­danao, the four countries warned their citizens against traveling to these places.

    But Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said there was no specific security threat monitored in Mindanao, adding that the Philippine government is taking steps to ensure the safety of Filipinos and foreigners there.

    “We recognize the need of any country to warn its citizens of precautionary measures necessary for their safety,” Valte said.

    “Upon consultation with our security and law enforcement officials, there are no specific threats that have been monitored in that area. We will continue to provide for the safety not just of our own citizens but also those who visit our country,” she added.

    On Wednesday, the US Embassy in Manila warned Americans of “a credible threat of a terrorist kidnapping- for-ransom plot against foreigners” in Zamboanga and advised them to “re-evaluate their personal safety situation and consider postponing travel to this area at this time.”

    Britain, for its part, advised “against all travel to southwest Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago because of ongoing terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgent groups,” while Australia cited “the very high threat of terrorist attack, kidnapping, violent crime and violent clashes between armed groups. We continue to advise you to reconsider your need to travel to eastern Mindanao.”

    On Thursday, the Canadian government issued a similar warning, but this time the advisory covered the entire Mindanao autonomous region.

    “Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao [ARMM],” it said.

    ARMM covers Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Sharif Kabunsuan.

    The Foreign Affairs department likewise claimed that there are “no specific threats” in the areas mentioned in the advisory.

    Catherine S. Valente  And Bernice Camille V. Bauzon

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