MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE – 2:14 p.m.) The United States embassy in Manila has warned Americans against traveling to Palawan citing “credible information” of plans by terrorist groups to carry out kidnappings in the province, one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations.
“The US Embassy has received credible information that terrorist groups may be planning to conduct kidnapping operations targeting foreign nationals in the areas of Palawan Province, Philippines, to include Puerto Princesa City, and the areas surrounding Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park,” the advisory posted on the embassy site (https://ph.usembassy.gov/security-message-u-s-citizens-travel-advisory-palawan-province/) said.
“US citizens are advised to carefully consider this information as they make their travel plans and to review personal security plans, avoid large crowds and gatherings, and remain vigilant at all times,” it added.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines said it respected the US government’s decision to issue a travel advisory but stressed it had yet to detect any threat to tourists visiting the island.
“We respect the issuance of (the US) travel advisory. We recognize that it is both an obligation and right of a sovereign state. We do that to our own nationals sojourning abroad,” AFP public affairs office chief Colonel Edgard Arevalo said.
“We have not monitored any threat specific to Palawan. But that doesn’t mean that we are taking the report lightly, although the AFP is not the source of that information made as the basis of the US travel advisory,” he added.
Last month, the US embassy issued a similar advisory against travel to Bohol, another popular tourist destination, due to threat of terrorist groups.
Soon after, government forces battled a band of Abu Sayyaf gunmen on the Central Visayas island.
The embassy also reminded its citizens of its March 6 Worldwide Caution, which “indicates there is an ongoing threat of terrorist actions and violence against US citizens and interests abroad, including the Philippines.”
“Extremists have targeted sporting events, theaters, markets, mass transportation systems — including airlines, and other public venue where large crowds gather,” the warning said.
It urged Americans to be “mindful of the importance of taking preventative measures to ensure their safety and security while traveling and residing in the Philippines.”
Arevalo said the AFP is not deploying additional forces to Palawan as he urged residents of the province to “remain calm and vigilant and actively participate in strengthening their security posture.”
“We would like to cite the Bohol experience where we defeated and frustrated the attempts of that terror group through the cooperation of the local government, the local residents, and security forces. Security is a shared concern and responsibility of everybody,” Arevalo said.