CITING highly credible intelligence information on possible terror attacks in at least two of the country’s southern regions, the United States State Department has restricted Americans from traveling to Mindanao.
A security message released by the US Embassy in Manila on Thursday cited the areas of concern as Regions II and 12, both in Southern Mindanao.
Region 2, also known as the Davao Region, is composed of Compostela Valley Davao del Sur, Davao Del Norte, Davao Oriental, including Davao City, while Region 12 covers the provinces of North and South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Saranggani.
Also covered by the security alert is the predominantly Muslim province of Maguindanao, which is part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
“Individuals associated with known extremist and insurgent groups are believed to have been conducting surveillance on a number of public locations in these areas, as possible targets of interest,” it said.
The extremists, it added, may use conventional or non-conventional weapons in targeting both official and private interests that include high-profile sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas, and other destinations, whether frequented by foreigners or locals.
According to the Embassy, all Americans wishing to visit or who are residing in southern Mindanao should exercise extreme caution and re-evaluate their personal safety situation.
“The Embassy strongly reiterates its recommendation that US citizens exercise extreme caution when traveling to Mindanao and keep personal safety and security in mind during any stay in Mindanao,” the security message said.
“The Embassy wishes to remind you to remain vigilant and maintain an appropriate level of personal security in all circumstances by reviewing your personal safety plans; remaining aware of your surroundings, including local events; and monitoring local news sources for updates,” it further said.
On July 4, the US government, along with Australia and Canada, also came out with a similar alert message because of an alleged security threat.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), through public information chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, however, said that it has no confirmation of the US information.
“No, there is no confirmation. We do not have the same information as to that of other governments. They may have information that is different from us,” Zagala said.
Zagala assured though that the AFP has enough forces all over Mindanao ready for any contingencies if anything should happen
He stressed that it is the right of another country to protect their citizens because of what happened in Zamboanga and other parts of Mindanao.
“We respect countries that are protecting the interest of their citizens and that we in turn, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, together with the Philippine National Police, we remain vigilant in all these areas, especially the areas that they have mentioned,” Zagala said.