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Philippines Travel Warning

Issued by U.S. Department of State

Nov 02, 2002

This supersedes the Public Announcement for the Philippines dated October 23, 2002. It has been updated to include information on the potential for terrorist bombings during the holiday season as well as the regional threat posed by Jemaah Islamiya and other transnational terrorist groups. It expires on January 10, 2003.

In view of a number of recent security-related incidents and the possibility of future terrorism, kidnappings, and other violence or criminal activity, Americans traveling to or residing in the Philippines are urged to exercise great caution and maintain a heightened security awareness. In the aftermath of the October 2002 terrorist bombings in Bali, Indonesia, the State Department is concerned that similar attacks may occur in other Southeast Asian nations, including the Philippines. Extremist groups present in Southeast Asia, such as Jemaah Islamiya, have demonstrated transnational capabilities to carry out attacks against locations where Westerners congregate. Terrorist groups do not distinguish between official and civilian targets.

The terrorist threat to Americans in the Philippines remains high. Information available to the United States Government suggests terrorist groups may be planning bombing attacks in the Philippines from now through the New Year holiday period. The U.S. Embassy urges all Americans to avoid crowds and crowded places, including nightclubs and bars, particularly through the New Year holiday and to exercise special caution in public places, such as cemeteries and shopping malls, or when using public transportation. Philippine authorities have confirmed that they have put into place extra security measures during this period to deter possible terrorist attacks and to protect the public, including resident and traveling foreigners.

A number of bomb-related incidents have recently occurred in the Metro Manila area. On October 18, 2002, an explosion on a bus killed three and injured numerous others. Earlier that same day, a hand grenade exploded at a main intersection in the Makati commercial area, and another unexploded grenade was found in the same vicinity. On October 16, 2002, a bomb was discovered and dismantled inside a passenger bus on the regular route from Manila to Laguna Province.

On October 23, the United States Government designated the Jemaah Islamiya (JI) organization a Foreign Terrorist Organization. JI is an extremist group with cells operating throughout Southeast Asia. JI members recently arrested in the region have revealed links with al-Qaeda, other regional terrorist groups, and previous terrorist attacks in the region.

The terrorist New People's Army (NPA), the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, operates throughout the Philippines and has recently issued public threats against U.S. citizens and interests in the Philippines. In early 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 warned to avoid hiking or camping in this area, and are advised to exercise caution when traveling elsewhere in the Philippines due to armed clashes between the NPA and government troops in some areas.

Several Filipinos and foreigners, including one American, have been kidnapped by extortionists or other kidnap gangs operating in various parts of the Philippines. Family members of prominent local politicians and business persons have also recently been kidnapped in the Metro Manila area.

The terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has recently issued public threats against U.S. citizens and interests in the Philippines. The ASG has taken hostage a number 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 could be attacked. Accordingly, Americans should defer travel to isolated beach resorts in the southern portion of the Philippines.

U.S. citizens are warned to avoid all travel to the central, southern and western areas of Mindanao, including Zamboanga City and General Santos City, due to incidents of kidnappings, bombings, and other violence and criminal activity. 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.

During October 2002 at least 20 persons were killed, including one American soldier, and more than 100 persons were injured in various bombing attacks in Zamboanga City, Zamboanga Province, and in Kidapawan, Cotabato Province. Other explosive devices have been discovered and defused prior to detonation in these and other areas.

Americans residing in central, southern or western Mindanao and in the Sulu archipelago should carefully review their security posture, take appropriate action to secure their well-being, and remain in close contact with the U.S. Embassy for current information. As a precaution, the U.S. Government has restricted travel by official personnel to these areas and has withdrawn resident official Americans and contractors from these areas.

U.S. citizens living in or visiting the Philippines are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy, 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 and the Worldwide Caution dated October 10, 2002, which are available via the Internet at http://travel.state.gov.

Department of State travel information and publications are available at Internet address: http://travel.state.gov. U.S. travelers may hear recorded information by calling the Department of State in Washington, D.C. at 202-647-5225 from their touchtone telephone, or receive information by automated telefax by dialing 202-647-3000 from their fax machine.

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