Philippines Public Announcement

Issued by US Department of State

Feb 22, 2005

This Public Announcement is being issued to update information on security incidents and concerns in the Philippines. It supersedes the Public Announcement issued November 1, 2004, and expires on July 18, 2005.

The terrorist threat to Americans in the Philippines remains high, and the Embassy continues to receive reports of ongoing activities by known terrorist groups. In view of a number of security-related incidents and the possibility of future terrorist attacks, and other violence or criminal activity, Americans traveling to or residing in the Philippines are urged to exercise caution and maintain heightened security awareness. Extremist groups present in Southeast Asia, such as Jema'ah Islamiyah (JI), have demonstrated transnational capabilities to carry out attacks against locations where Westerners congregate. JI is an extremist group linked to Al-Qaeda and other regional terrorist groups such as the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), and has cells operating throughout Southeast Asia. Terrorist groups do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. U.S. citizens are urged to defer non-essential travel to central, southern, and western Mindanao, and the islands of Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, and Jolo, located in the Sulu archipelago in the southwest of the Philippines, due to military operations against kidnappings and other criminal activity. As a precaution, the U.S. Government carefully reviews all travel by official personnel to Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago, and emergency services to U.S. citizens in some of these areas may be limited.

Bombings have claimed many lives and injured hundreds in the Philippines over the past few years. The Department of State continues to receive information that there may be future bombings in the Philippines, including against airports, commercial shipping, passenger vessels and seaports. On February 14, 2005, explosions detonated in the southern Philippines cities of Davao and General Santos, followed shortly thereafter by one explosion in the business/commercial district of Makati, Metro Manila, resulting in at least 7 deaths and over 150 injuries. Two terrorist groups known to be operating in the Philippines have claimed responsibility for the bombings: the "Abu Sayyaf Group" ("ASG") and the Jema'ah Islamiyah ("JI"). A bombing at a sports arena in Maguindanao Province on January 4, 2004, killed at least 15 persons and injured dozens more. A bombing at the international airport in Davao on March 4, 2003, killed at least 21 people, including one American, and injured over 150 others. In June 2004, two grenades exploded in Metro Manila, reportedly injuring four people near a university campus. In October 2002, one U.S. service member was killed and another injured when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in Zamboanga City in Mindanao. The February 27, 2004, terrorist bombing and subsequent sinking of Superferry 14 in Manila Bay killed more than 100 people. The Philippine Government has filed related criminal charges against individuals believed associated with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), which had previously claimed responsibility for this attack. Other explosive devices have been discovered throughout the Philippines and defused prior to detonation. The U.S. Embassy urges Americans to exercise special caution in public places or when using public transportation.

The Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) continue to engage in discussions that could lead to a peace agreement, and a military ceasefire remains in effect. However, military operations continue in various parts of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago against elements associated with the ASG, the Jema'ah Islamiyah, the Misuari Breakaway Group (a renegade faction of the Moro National Liberation Front), and the terrorist New People's Army (NPA), the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Americans residing in or visiting these areas should constantly review their security posture, take appropriate action to secure their well being, and remain in close contact with local police and the Embassy for current information.

The NPA operates throughout the Philippines and has issued public threats against U.S. citizens and interests in the Philippines. In January 2002, an American tourist was shot and killed by an unidentified gunman on the slopes of Mt. Pinatubo in Pampanga Province, an area known for NPA activity. Americans are advised to exercise special caution when traveling throughout the Philippines due to the possibility of armed robberies, kidnappings, and armed clashes between the NPA and government troops in some areas. The ASG continues to issue public threats against U.S. citizens and interests in the Philippines. The ASG has taken hostage large numbers of Filipinos, Americans and foreign tourists since April 2000. Several were freed after substantial ransoms were paid, some escaped or were rescued by military action, and some were killed. In 2002, one American hostage was killed and another injured during a rescue operation after spending more than a year in captivity. Because the ASG has demonstrated its ability to travel long distances by boat to kidnap foreigners, it is possible that other locations in the Philippines, such as beach resorts, could be attacked. Americans should particularly avoid isolated beach resorts or areas where the ASG remains active.

Criminal and political extortionists kidnapped several Filipinos and foreigners, in Metro Manila including three American children in 2003 and an American businessman in 2004. Kidnappers operating in Metro Manila and throughout the Philippines have snatched family members of prominent local business leaders and politicians for financial gain, to make a political statement, or as part of business, land, or personal disputes.

Americans living in or visiting the Philippines are strongly encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Manila through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov. The U.S. Embassy is located at: 1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila, Philippines, tel. 632 528-6300. The Consular American Citizen Services (ACS) section's fax number is 632 522-3242 and the ACS web page is at http://usembassy.state.gov/posts/rp1/wwwhmain.html.

U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State's Consular Information Sheet for the Philippines and the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, located at http://travel.state.gov/ to obtain updated information on travel and security within the Philippines. For further information, US citizens may contact the Department of State toll-free at 1-888-407-4747, or, if calling from overseas, 317-472-2328.

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