THE United Kingdom, Australia and Canada governments issued separate travel advisories on Monday, July 24, urging their citizens to exercise caution following the extension of martial law in Mindanao.
The Philippine Congress approved last July 22 to extend martial law in Mindanao for another five months, or until December 31, to authorize government forces to enforce continued offensives against the Maute terror group in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
In a statement posted on its website, the United Kingdom warned its citizens against all travel to western and central Mindanao and Sulu because of terrorist activity and clashes between the military and the Maute group.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised against “all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao (excluding Camigiun, Dinagat and Siargao Islands) and to the south of Cebu province, up to and including the towns Dumaguete and Badian, due to threat of terrorism.”
The Australian government, meanwhile, advised its citizens to exercise heightened caution, to be vigilant on their surroundings and monitor the media for developments that may affect their safety and security.
“Reconsider your need to travel to eastern Mindanao due to the very high levels of violent crime and the high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping,” the Australian government said.
It also warned its citizens against travelling to central and western Mindanao “due to the very high threat of kidnapping, terrorist attack, violent crime and violent clashes between armed groups.”
The Canadian government, through its website, also informed its citizens to avoid travel to Sulu, southern Sulu Sea and Mindanao (excluding Davao City) due to the threat of terrorist attack, piracy and kidnapping.
It also warned against non-essential travel to the urban areas of Davao City due to the concerns and the implementation of martial law in Mindanao.
During the special joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives on Saturday, July 22, around 261 lawmakers voted in favor of the martial law extension and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the south.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said 16 senators voted in affirmative, while only four rejected the proposed five-month extension.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23 after a clash erupted between the government forces and members of the Maute group in Marawi City.
As of July 18, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief-of-Staff General Eduardo Año noted that around 60 to 70 members of the Maute group are still holed up in Marawi City, while the presence of more or less 800 “Islamic State-inspired terrorists” are reported in other areas of Mindanao. (Jo Ann Sablad/SunStar Philippines)