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US warns travellers of terror threat in Palawan

The US Embassy in Manila issued a travel advisory on May 9, 2017, warning of possible terrorist threats in the province of Palawan. The embassy says it has received credible information that terrorist groups might be planning kidnappings of foreign nationals in the Palawan region, including Puerto Princesa City, and the areas surrounding Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.

The advisory reminds U.S. citizens that extremists have targeted sporting events, theaters, markets, mass transportation systems – including airlines, and other public venues where large crowds gather. Crowded nightclubs, shopping malls, buses and popular restaurants have also been targets.

Global Affairs Canada advises against all travel to 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. The department’s current advisories also recommends against all travel to the Mindanao Region, excluding urban areas of Davao City, due to the serious threat of terrorist attacks and kidnapping.

Security around the Puerto Princesa Underground River National Park was tightened on May 10 following the US Embassy advisory. The military thwarted a kidnapping raid by the Abu Sayyaf in Bohol following another US Embassy warning in early April.

The Armed Forces spokesperson, Col. Edgard Arevalo, said the military has not monitored any “specific threat” to Palawan.

“Whether there indeed is a threat or not, our position is we take all reports seriously … and are taking all precautions,” said Arevalo.

The Philippine Military Academy cancelled plans for cadets to visit the Underground River and Honda Bay. Security around most of Palawan’s tourist destinations had been intensified since the military clashed with the Abu Sayyaf in Bohol in April.

Abu Sayyaf terrorists first targeted Palawan in 2001, abducting three Americans and 17 Filipinos from a high-end resort on Honda Bay. One American was beheaded and another hostage was killed during the military’s rescue operation.