Army downplays US warning: 'Palawan is safe'


Posted at May 10 2017 11:06 AM

Army downplays US warning: 'Palawan is safe' 1
Puerto Princesa underground river. Photo by Vincent Go

MANILA - Contrary to a travel alert issued by the US Embassy, Palawan province remains safe for locals and foreign nationals, a military unit said Wednesday.

"We remain on heightened alert but assure the public that Palawan, being one of the most beautiful places in the world, is safe for both local and foreign nationals, residing in and/or visiting the province, including Puerto Princesa," the Army's Western Command (Wescom) said in a statement.

The US Embassy on Tuesday warned that terrorists are planning a kidnapping spree in Palawan and advised American citizens to avoid going to the popular tourist destination.

The advisory was issued just weeks after the US embassy discouraged its citizens from traveling to central Visayas due to terrorism threats.

Local intelligence units "have not monitored any threat specific to Palawan," but taking the reported threat seriously, said Army spokesperson Col. Edgar Arevalo.

Wescom, for its part, said authorities have been utilizing all assets to ensure maximum security in the area in time for the tourist season and even before the US government issued its travel warning.

The military unit added that regular patrols are being conducted in the seas off Palawan to thwart the entry of terror forces while checkpoints were set up in tourist hotspots.

Authorities have also coordinated with resort owners, Muslim leaders and the Palawan Chamber of Commerce regarding added security checks.

"We see to it that we are always a step further on security," Wescom said.

Army downplays US warning: 'Palawan is safe' 2
Members of the Joint Task Unit-Coron patrol the waters off Palawan. Western Command, Handout/AFP

Authorities are set to conduct a security council meeting about the US warning on Wednesday, according to the body overseeing the Puerto Princesa underground river, a popular tourist attraction in Palawan.

"We are taking this information seriously as we always consider the safety and security of our guests and the community in the paramount of our concern," the river's management added.

Arevalo meanwhile urged Palaweños to report all suspicious individuals or activities to the authorities.

"We urge our people there to remain calm and invite them to continue to remain vigilant and actively participate in strengthening our security posture," the official said.