MANILA, Philippines — The Australian Embassy in Manila released a new travel advisory on Monday, warning Australian citizens to exercise a “high degree of caution” over threats of possible kidnappings in Central Visayas.
The embassy has received “unsubstantiated yet credible information that terrorists groups may attempt to conduct kidnappings in Central Visayas, which includes both Cebu and Bohol provinces.
“If you are planning to visit Cebu or Bohol you should exercise heightened vigilance and review your personal security plans,” the bulletin stated.
On Twitter, Ambassador Amanda Gorely directed Australians traveling to or in the Philippines to read the updated advisory.
A color-coded map released by the embassy shows that the travel warning applies to the entire Philippines.
Map released by the Australian Embassy in Manila summarizing travel warnings for Australians in the Philippines
Australia also advised its citizens to reconsider the need to travel to Eastern Mindanao “due to the very high levels of violent crime and the high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping.”
Eastern Mindanao includes the provinces of Bukidnon, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Davao Oriental.
The embassy also advised travelers to refrain from going to central and western Mindanao, including the Zamboanga Peninsula and the Sulu Archipelago and the southern Sulu Sea area.
It noted “very high threat of kidnapping, terrorist attack, violent crime and violent clashes between armed groups” in areas including Maguindanao, Sarangani, Sultan Kudurat, North Cotabato, South Cotobato, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi Tawi.
National police chief Ronald dela Rosa confirmed terror threats in Central Visayas on Monday following a similarly worded advisory released by the United States Embassy in Manila.
In March, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop warned that the so-called Islamic State might declare a caliphate in Mindanao through local extremist group Abu Sayyaf.
Some security experts, however, said that while extremism is a cause for concern, a caliphate emerging in southern Philippines is unlikely.
“Most IS fighters left with no intention of returning. Australia does not need to worry about 600 (or 300 or even 100) ex-combatants joining the ranks of the alliance,” said Sidney Jones, director of Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta. — Camille Diola
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