Travel Advisories – Editorial

Why did the governments of the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK issue travel advisories against this small peaceful country of the Philippines? It's a question without any concrete answers. In reading the news articles about this over the past week, nothing has been said as to the 'why'. It seems this advisory was based on the recent arrest of an Abu Sayeff member in this country. Abu Sayeff at one time in the past was one of the most ruthless terror groups in the Philippines, but this is no longer the case. Their numbers have dwindled to around 300 members and this count continues to fall. This group has had members arrested and killed in gun battles against the Philippine National Police and Philippine Army for the past 4+ years and yet no travel advisories were issued. Were these advisories a bit premature? Possibly so. Were these travel advisories issued because of the recent attempted attack on the U.S.? Maybe. Let's go back to the beginning of October when the threat of a bomb attack against western nations began. From October 3rd until October 29th, according to the news as reported online by the “”, countries such as France, Great Britain and Saudi Arabia began intercepting and arresting suspected terrorists from Yemen who were plotting to bomb certain targets in the U.S. Luckily and with good planning, those targets in the States were spared. Also what occurred during this time frame were travel warnings sent to Americans and Britons traveling in France and the rest of Europe. In all the reports from this news source, nothing was mentioned about the Philippines. Now let's fast forward to November 2nd when Australia and the UK placed travel advisories against travel to the Philippines, according to one of the Philippines news sources, ABS-CBN. In this report, it stated that both of these governments were continuing to receive reports of possible attacks against it's citizens “in variety of locations”, but which locations might they be speaking about. This was not mentioned. The article goes on to state these attacks could take place anywhere in the country, but again there is no hard evidence, only supposition. This country has been relatively peaceful for several years. Mindanao does have its troubled areas, but for the provincial cities of Zamboanga City, Davao, Cagayan de Oro and General Santos City, these types of accusations are a bit unjustified. In the past, there have been problems in Manila, but these were not terrorist related. Instead they were disgruntled Filipino citizens carrying out their aggressions against their own people. The same can be said about recent past problems in Mindanao. These were violent attacks against local politicians, not acts of terrorism. The day after the other three countries issued their travel advisories, the US issued a travel warning for its citizens in the Philippines, days after a thwarted attempted attack on its own soil. Beginning to get the picture? Because there have been terrorist activities and violence in this country in the past, these four countries seem to be what went on in Europe during the month of October to put an unwanted scare into their citizens to keep them from traveling here for holidays and vacations. All the reports stated travel to Mindanao could be hazardous to one's health and I don't deny this, but let's be more specific about where the hazards lie. Definitely not in the entire Philippines and definitely not in the cities of Zamboanga City, Davao, Cagayan de Oro and General Santos City. The hazards being spoken of are in certain areas of Mindanao, which are mostly in the Muslim majority populations of Mindanao and the surrounding islands of Basilan, Jolo, and Sulu. There are other places on Mindanao which are safe as well, and these are the surfing areas around Surigao, the resort area of Dakak, the city of Dipolog along with a few others. Not all of Mindanao is hazardous to foreigners. Not all of the Philippines is hazardous. From this writer's point of few, bureaucrats who make policy are sometimes misinformed as to reality.

In the latest round of articles published by GMA news, the president of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino III, is even questioning why travel advisories were imposed on this country. He as asked in recent news conferences for these governments to lower the warnings. Most of country is still wondering why these warnings were even issued. According to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, “Of course those countries are advising their people not to travel to countries like the Philippines because they think that the Philippines is a soft country that does not have the capacity to enforce its security laws.” But again, this is the angle of bureaucrats who have been misinformed of the real reality taking place in this country.

References: ABS-CBN News GMA News