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Philippines Public Announcement

Issued by U.S. State Department

Aug 20, 2002

This Public Announcement is being issued to provide updated information concerning the general security environment in the Philippines. This supersedes the Public Announcement for the Philippines dated April 18, 2002, and it expires on February 19, 2003.

A number of security-related incidents highlight the risks of travel in the Philippines. Kidnappings of foreigners, bombings, and other violent incidents call for Americans to exercise caution throughout the country. Moreover, as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, U.S. citizens and interests may be at increased risk of terrorist actions from extremist groups, as stated in the Worldwide Caution updated by the Department of State on July 1, 2002.

On January 30, 2002, an American tourist was shot and killed by an unidentified gunman while hiking with a friend on the slopes of Mt. Pinatubo in Pampanga Province. On June 5, 2001, a similar incident occurred when a group of American Navy personnel on leave and their guides were fired upon by an armed group in the same vicinity. Americans are warned to avoid hiking or camping in this area. The terrorist New People's Army (NPA), the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, operates in many rural areas of the Philippines and has recently issued public threats against U.S. citizens and interests in the Philippines.

In March 2002, several bombs without triggering devices were discovered in Metro Manila; the Indigenous People's Federal Army claimed responsibility and threatened to plant more bombs. In December 2001, two bombs were discovered in the Makati commercial area of Metro Manila; both were defused before explosion. In December 2000, 18 people were killed and over 100 injured in a series of bomb attacks in tourist and commercial areas of Metro Manila. In view of these incidents and the possibility of future occurrences, Americans are urged to exercise caution in outdoor public areas and not to approach or linger in the vicinity of a bomb-related incident.

The terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has taken hostage a number of Filipinos, Americans and other 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 by their captors. On May 22, 2001, an ASG-affiliated group attacked a resort on Samal Island near Davao City, Mindanao; that attack was repulsed with the loss of two Filipino lives. On May 27, 2001, members of the ASG kidnapped 20 tourists, including three Americans, from Palawan Island in the southern Philippines and took them by boat to Basilan Island in the Sulu archipelago. One of the Americans was killed while in captivity, another was killed during a rescue operation by the Philippine armed forces after spending more than a year in captivity, and the third was wounded during the same rescue operation.

The ASG has recently issued public threats against U.S. citizens and interests in the Philippines, and Americans have received threats of kidnapping from persons claiming affiliation with this group. Although the capacity of some elements of the ASG has been diminished by recent Philippine military action, the ASG or other groups may attack U.S. citizens again. 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 could be attacked. Accordingly, Americans should defer travel to isolated beach resorts in the southern portion of the Philippines. Travelers may contact the U.S. Embassy for current information.

There have also been sporadic incidents of violence in central, southern and western Mindanao, including bombings in Zamboanga City, General Santos City, and near Cotabato City in Maguindanao Province, as well as bus hijackings on national highways. Although foreigners have not been specifically targeted, several persons have been killed or injured in these attacks.

U.S. citizens are warned to avoid travel to the central, southern and western areas of Mindanao, including Zamboanga City, due to incidents of terrorism, kidnappings, and violence. U.S. citizens should also avoid travel to the islands of Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, and Jolo, located in the Sulu archipelago in the extreme southwest of the Philippines. Americans residing in central, southern or western Mindanao and in the Sulu archipelago should carefully review their situation and evaluate their security posture in light of local circumstances. As a precaution, the U.S. Government has withdrawn resident official Americans and contractors from these areas.

In view of these incidents and the possibility of future terrorism, violence, or criminal activity, Americans traveling to or residing in the Philippines are urged to remain vigilant and to increase their security awareness. U.S. citizens living in or visiting the Philippines are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Manila, located at 1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila City; tel. (63-2) 523-1001. For further general information on travel to the Philippines, please consult the Department's latest Consular Information Sheet for the Philippines, which is available via the Internet at http://travel.state.gov.

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