Canada urges citizens to avoid traveling to Mindanao


Posted at Apr 12 2017 02:28 AM

Police and soldiers take position as they engage with the Abu Sayyaf group in the village of Napo, Inabanga town, Bohol, on Tuesday. Nine people, including four government security officials, were killed during clashes with the Abu Sayyaf on the popular resort island as millions prepare to travel for the Easter holiday. AFP

The Canadian government has issued a travel warning urging its citizens to "exercise a high degree of caution" when going to the Philippines and "avoid all travel" to Mindanao and the southern Sulu sea.

The advisory references Global Affairs Canada, a department responsible for the country's diplomatic and consular relations. 

That department has advised against "all travel" to Mindanao, except urban areas of Davao City, due to the serious threat of terrorist attacks and kidnapping. 

The ban also covers "the Sulu Archipelago and through the southern Sulu Sea, including the waters off southern Palawan Island, due to the threat of piracy and kidnappings in this area."

Canada defines exercising a high degree of caution as the presence of "identifiable safety and security concerns or the safety and security situation could change with little notice." Citizens are urged to "monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities."

On Sunday, the US Embassy in Manila sent a security message to Americans, indicating that it has received "unsubstantiated yet credible information that terrorist groups may attempt to conduct kidnappings in Central Visayas, which includes both Bohol and Cebu provinces." 

Canada's travel warning followed those released by the United Kingdom and Australia in the past 24 hours.

Just before noon on Tuesday, New Zealand classified traveling to central and western Mindanao as an "extreme risk" to its citizens' security.  

The provinces that fell under this category include: Sarangani, South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay and in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (including the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi Tawi). 

The rest of Mindanao was tagged as "high risk." 

The travel alerts come at the heels of a bloody clash between the military and suspected Abu Sayyaf rebels in Bohol that has killed 9 people. 

The United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand comprise the Five Eyes intelligence alliance of English-speaking countries.