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Philippines Travel Warning

Issued by US Department of State

Apr 22, 2002

This Public Announcement is being issued to reflect updated information concerning the general security environment in the Philippines and to add recent examples of threats and crimes against American citizens, including armed attacks and murder. This Public Announcement supersedes the Public Announcement for the Philippines dated October 5, 2001.

A number of recent security-related incidents highlight the danger of travel in the Philippines. Kidnappings of foreigners, bombings, and other violent incidents call for Americans to exercise great 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 March 17, 2002.

In January, 2002, an American tourist was shot and killed by an unidentified gunman while hiking with a friend on the slopes of Mount Pinatubo in Pampanga Province. A similar incident occurred in 2001 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 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. military personnel 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.

On May 27, 2001, members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) kidnapped 20 tourists, including three Americans, from Palawan Island in the southern Philippines and took them by boat to Basilan Island. This followed a similar attack by another group on May 22, 2001 on a resort on Samal Island near Davao City, Mindanao. That attack was repulsed with the loss of two Filipino lives. The ASG has taken hostage a number of Filipinos and foreign tourists since April 2000. Several were freed after payment of substantial ransoms, some escaped or were rescued by military action, and some were killed by their captors. Two Americans remain in captivity of the ASG, and other Americans have received threats of kidnapping from persons claiming affiliation with this group.

The ASG or other groups may attack U.S. citizens again. Because the ASG has broadened its area of operations and 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. While this ongoing terrorist/criminal campaign of kidnapping foreigners is in progress, 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. 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.

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