UK issues travel warning on Mindanao

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/05 August) — The United Kingdom has issued a warning on travel to parts of Mindanao following the blast early this week in Cotabato City that killed two persons and injured 12 others.

Updated on August 4 and still in effect as of Friday, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (UK FCO) cited “terrorism and kidnapping” in issuing the travel advisory on the Southern Philippines.

“We advise against all travel to south west Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago covering the following areas of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), including the islands of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi,” the advisory said.

It also advised its citizens to avoid traveling to the provinces of South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani, which all belong to the Southwestern Mindanao region.

A warning was also issued against traveling to the provinces of Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay.

“We advise against all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao,” it said.

There have been terrorist attacks against civilian targets in Mindanao, the most recent explosion was on August 2 outside a gun store in Cotabato City, the UK FCO said.

Lt. Col. Prudencio Asto, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division, claimed that the explosion was carried out by suspects with alleged links to the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiya.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the bomb attack that occurred on the second day of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims.

There is also a “threat from kidnapping” in the Philippines particularly in the southern Philippines, it said, adding that on July 12, two US citizens and a Filipino were kidnapped from a resort on the island of Tictabon near the southern port city of Zamboanga.

Meanwhile, South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy, Jr. has bewailed the province’s inclusion in the travel warning of foreign countries

“We are very peaceful here, there is no trouble in our province. Our people are warm and friendly,” Pingoy said.

Last year, 95,000 British tourists visited the Philippines, the UK FCO said, citing data from the Department of Tourism.

Earlier advisories against travel to Mindanao were issued by the United States and Australia.

Pingoy said these were unfair since Mindanao as a whole is a largely peaceful region. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)