Canada joins a list of Western Countries advising its citizens to avoid travelling to Mindanao Island in The Philippines, due to a high risk of terrorism. This is not really the kind of news that governments like to hear. A travel warning is often disputed by the country affected. And this is likely that the Philippines government will speak against the newest travel warning issued by Canada.
On Tuesday, the Canadian government warned its citizens to exercise a high degree of caution in the Philippines due to the threat of terrorism and the high level of crime. The advisory is particularly strict for Mindanao Island, the government asking people to totally avoid going there, excluding the urban areas of Davao City. However, non-essential travels should also be avoided to the regional capital, due to the enforcement of martial law.
On the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Canada’s travel advisory indicates that “there is a serious risk of terrorist attacks and kidnappings in this region. Bombs causing deaths and injuries have exploded in public areas of major centers, including the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato, General Santos, Isabela, Jolo, Kidapawan and Zamboanga.”
The travel warning also names other areas such as the Sulu Archipelago – actually south of Mindanao Island – as well as the waters of Southern Palawan, due to rampant piracy and kidnappings in those areas. Many kidnapping cases has occurred in recent years in international water territories between Sabah in Malaysia, and the Southern Philippines.
“The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously,” the Canadian government added.
Canada is not the only country to issue a travel warning to its citizens. Earlier in November, Australia also warned its citizens about a “high threat” of a terrorist attack in the Philippines, including the capital city Manila. The Australian government fears retaliation from Islamist fundamentalists following the end of the siege of Marawi by the Philippines Army against Islamic rebels there.
The UK also issued a similar travel warning to visit Central and Western Mindanao, but also the Southern part of Cebu Island. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) talks about threat of terrorism in these various parts of the country. Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland also warned their citizens to avoid travelling to the Mindanao and to exert caution in other regions.
Last July, the US Department of State warned American citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to the city of Marawi, Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago including the southern Sulu Sea, and to exercise extreme caution when traveling to other regions of Mindanao, due to terrorist threats, insurgent activities, and kidnappings.