Thursday, November 11, 2010

Philippine Travel advisory

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Mindanao
We advise against all travel to south west Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago covering the following areas Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), including the islands of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, plus the western provinces of Sarangani, North and South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay, because of ongoing terrorist and insurgent activity. We advise against all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao.

If you intend to travel to the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte and Misamis Occidental you should use air or sea routes as we advise against all travel to neighbouring provinces.

There have been terrorist attacks against civilian targets in Mindanao. There is also criminal activity in Mindanao, including the use of kidnapping and explosions. The most recent was on 21 October 2010 when an explosion on a bus in North Cotabato Province killed ten people and injured thirty others.. Other recent significant explosions include:

* On 5 August 2010 at Zamboanga airport an explosion killed two people and injured 24 people including a British national.

* On 13 April 2010 in Basilan separate explosions near a school and cathedral in Isabela City killed 14 people and injured 16 others.

On 7 July 2009, in Jolo, an explosion in the main commercial area killed two people and injured at least 17 others.

On 5 June 2009, in Cotabato City, an explosion at a food stand near the Cathedral killed six people and critically injured eight others.

On 3 April 2009, in Isabella City, Basilan, an explosion in the central plaza near a fast food restaurant killed two people and injured eight others.

There are ongoing clashes between the military and insurgent groups in the Sulu archipelago including Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Jolo. There is currently a ceasefire between the government and the MILF armed group. The situation has deteriorated with little warning in the past, most recently in August 2008 when clashes in Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte lead to civilian casualties and thousands of people being displaced.

Extortion and kidnap for ransom gangs, that have targeted public transport with armed hold-ups and explosions, operate in Mindanao. We advise against using public transport throughout Mindanao.

There is also a threat of kidnapping in south west Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago. Most recently, a Swiss national was kidnapped in Zamboanga City on 5 April 2010 and was subsequently released unharmed. Previous incidents include the kidnapping of an Irish priest from Pagadian City in Zamboana del Sur in October 2009 and three members of the International Red Cross, including two foreign nationals, were kidnapped in Sulu in February 2009. In these cases the victims were subsequently released unharmed.

You should be aware that is is the long-standing policy of the British Government not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British Government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.


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