Australia cites abduction threat in Philippines

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

MANILA -- The Australian government advised its nationals in the Philippines to exercise a high degree of caution against possible threats of terror attacks including abduction.

In its travel advice update on October 5, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia cited a recent warning supposedly issued by local authorities.

"[T]he Philippines government warned that an armed group may be planning to abduct foreign nationals, including workers of international non-government organisations undertaking field visits and other humanitarian activities, in some areas of Maguindanao and Cotabato provinces," the travel advice update said.

The Australian government added that "there is a danger of kidnapping throughout the Philippines" particularly in the southern part of the country including places frequented by tourists such as coastal and island resorts, dive sites, and remote locations in the Sulu Sea.

"Terrorists have kidnapped foreigners from these areas in the past. If you decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should ensure you have personal security measures in place, seek professional security advice and take out kidnapping insurance," the Australian government said in its travel advice update.

Last February, two foreign nationals were kidnapped in the Sulu Archipelago, close to the border with Malaysia.

In December 2011, an Australian citizen was kidnapped in Zamboanga Sibugay while two American citizens and their Filipino relative were kidnapped from an island near Zamboanga City in July of the same year.

The Australian government also advised its nationals not to travel to central and western Mindanao, including the Zamboanga Peninsula and Sulu Archipelago, due to the very high threat of terrorist attack, kidnapping, violent crime and violent clashes between armed groups.

It even claimed that terrorist attacks could happen "anytime, anywhere" in the Philippines, including in Manila.

"We continue to receive credible reports indicating terrorists are planning attacks against a range of targets in a variety of locations, including places frequented by foreigners," the Australian government said in its travel advice update.

Australia's travel advice update comes a week after the United States Embassy issued a similar warning to its nationals in the Philippines for a possible security threat in Metro Manila, particularly in the Pasay City neighborhood.

The threat remains in effect until October 10.

But Malacañang has since assured that law enforcers have tightened security measures for the alleged threats in the country.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines also said last week that the military has not monitored any "significant threat" against foreign nationals.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police has placed Mindanao-based police regional offices on full alert this week also due to the week-long filing of certificates of candidacy (COC) for the 2013 midterm elections. (Emmanuel Louis Bacani/Sunnex)

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