Philippines Public Announcement
Issued by US Department of State
Apr 28, 2004
This Public Announcement is being revised to update travelers about ongoing security concerns in the Philippines, particularly on Mindanao. It supersedes the Public Announcement issued January 16, 2004, and expires on October 29, 2004.
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 terrorism, and other violence or criminal activity, Americans traveling to or residing in the Philippines are urged to exercise great caution and maintain heightened security awareness. The U.S. Embassy urges Americans to avoid crowds, including, among other places, nightclubs and bars, and to exercise special caution in public places or when using public transportation. Extremist groups present in Southeast Asia, such as Jemaah Islamiyah, have demonstrated transnational capabilities to carry out attacks against locations where Westerners congregate. Terrorist groups do not distinguish between official and civilian targets.
Bombings have claimed many lives and injured hundreds in the Philippines during the past year, particularly on Mindanao. 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 in Mindanao and in other areas. Since March 2003, bombings have occurred at the sports arena in Maguindanao Province, the international airport in Davao, and the Sasa Wharf in Davao City in Mindanao. These bombings have killed at least 48 people, including one American, and injured over 200 others. Other explosive devices have been discovered and defused prior to detonation in these and other areas of Mindanao. A number of bomb-related incidents have also occurred in Metro Manila in recent years. The Government of the Philippines has condemned these indicidents as acts of terrorism. The explosion and subsequent sinking of a Superferry on February 27, 2004, in Manila Bay killed more than 100 people. The terrorist group Abu Sayyaf (ASG) has claimed responsibility for this attack and has threatened to target ferries and other shipping interests in the future.
U.S. citizens are urged to defer non-emergency travel to the island of Mindanao due to recurring bombing incidents and threats of other violence and criminal activity, including kidnapping. U.S. citizens should avoid all travel to the islands of Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, and Jolo, located in the Sulu archipelago in the extreme southwest of the Philippines, due to kidnappings and other criminal activity. Americans residing in 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 Embassy for current information. As a precaution, the U.S. Government has restricted travel by official personnel to these areas, and emergency services to U.S. citizens in these areas may be limited.
The terrorist New People's Army (NPA), the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, 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 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 New People's Army and government troops in some areas. Americans are also advised to exercise special caution when traveling throughout the Philippines around the time of the national elections on May 10, as election-related violence has been widely reported in this and during previous elections, especially in areas where the NPA remains active.
Extortionists have kidnapped several Filipinos and foreigners, including three American children, in recent years. 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. In January 2004, an American businessman was abducted in the Makati commercial district of Metro Manila and was held captive for 21 days before he was rescued by Philippine law enforcement authorities.
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. 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, such as the May 2001 kidnapping operation in Palawan, it is possible that other locations in the Philippines, such as beach resorts, could be attacked. Americans should particularly avoid beach resorts in areas where the ASG remains active.
Americans living in or visiting the Philippines are strongly encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the Philippines. The U.S. Embassy is located at: 1201 Roxas Boulevard; Manila, Philippines tel. (63)(2) 528-6300. The Consular American Citizen Services (ACS) section's fax number is (63)(2) 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, which are available at the Department of State's web site, http://travel.state.gov. Current information travel and security in the Philippines may be obtained from the Department of State at 1-888-407-4747, or from overseas at 1-317-472-2328.