Lobregat cries ‘unfair’ on US travel advisory

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 30 May) – Mayor Celso Lobregat on Thursday described the latest United States government travel advisory against this city as “very unfortunate and unfair.”

Lobregat issued the statement as he noted the travel advisory was issued Wednesday when US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. was here together with other US Embassy officials and “nothing untoward happened.”

The US travel advisory said: “The US Embassy wishes to alert US citizens that a credible threat of a terrorist kidnapping-for-ransom (KFR) plot against foreigners has been identified in the Zamboanga area on the island of Mindanao. As a result, the Embassy advises all American citizens residing in or planning to travel to the Zamboanga area to reevaluate their personal safety situation and consider postponing travel to this area at this time.”

Thomas led the launching Wednesday of three projects funded by the US government through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Among the US projects launched during Thomas’s visit were Enhancing Governance, Accountability, and Engagement (ENGAGE); MindanaoHealth; and Mindanao Youth for Development (MYDEV).

“The US Embassy was asking its nationals to reevaluate their travel plans to Zamboanga and I am also asking the US Embassy to reevaluate its travel advisory,” Lobregat said, adding that when Thomas was here there was nothing mentioned about any travel advisory.

“Of course, any travel advisory from anywhere in the world will always have an effect,” he said when asked whether the latest US travel advisory would affect the city government’s tourism programs.

Last Wednesday, Lobregat joined Thomas for breakfast in one of the hotels in this city. With them were USAID and Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) officials.

“But nothing was mentioned about any threats to the Americans in the city and no less than the Ambassador was here on the day the Embassy issued its travel advisory. That is very, very unfortunate and unfair,” Lobregat lamented.

Lobregat said that when the US was under terror attack during the infamous 9/11, when the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were bombed, “we in Zamboanga City or in Mindanao did not issue a travel advisory against the US. We did not say do not go to America because it’s dangerous there.”