By Roy C. Mabasa and Francis T. Wakefield
The governments of Australia and the United Kingdom yesterday issued separate travel advisories, warning their nationals to be on alert against possible “high threat of terrorist attack” in the Philippines.
In the advisories posted on their respective websites, both Australia and the UK governments urged their citizens to be on alert against possible threats around locations that have a “low level of protective security and places known to be possible terrorist targets.”
“The level of our advice has not changed. Exercise a high degree of caution in the Philippines overall. Higher levels apply in some parts of the country,” said the advisory on the Australian,” said the advisory on the website of Australian Embassy in Manila.
Both advisories were updated November 3.
These latest advisories came almost two weeks after the Philippine government has declared the end of the five-month old Marawi terror crisis, and barely a week before the arrival of world leaders who will participate in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit to be held in Manila from November 12 to 15
But the deputy commander of Armed Forces of the Philippines-Joint Task Force National Capital Region (AFP JTF-NCR), Friday, that the country’s current alert level remains the same, despite the latest travel advisory issued by Australia and the United Kingdom.
Col. Vic Tomas, said the latest travel advisory issued by Australia was actually part of a global alert warning due to possible lone wolf attacks like the one that happened New York in the US.
He added that to ensure that no untoward incidents will take place, especially during the country’s hosting of the ASEAN Summit 2017 from November 13 to 14, they have already alerted standby forces to support the Philippine National Police (PNP) in all events and other security matters.
“We will keep you posted on developments,” he said.
For his part, AFP Spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, said the military has already verified the matter with the Austalian Embassy and has found out that the travel advisory was just a reiteration of a previous travel advisory issued earlier in May of this year.
He added that there was no credible threat in Metro Manila, as of this time.
“It was re-issued in a more succinct manner and may have an update next week following the end of combat operations in Marawi,” Padilla said.
“Wala (there is no credible threat). This is just a reiteration, the threat that they percieved in May is the same with the current one,” he added.
For his part, Department of National Defense (DND) Public Affairs Service chief Arsenio Andolong, said its normal procedure for governments through their embassies to issue advisories to their nationals who are overseas considering the spate of activities that have been happening abroad.
“Of particular concern is the possibiity of lone wolf terrorist attacks like what happened in the United States. I believe thats one of their reactions to what happened recently in New York and there seems to be a pattern emerging,” Andolong said.
In its latest travel advisory, Australia said there was a high threat of terrorist attack in the Philippines, including Manila, thus the need to exercise heightened caution at this time.
“Be alert to possible threats around locations that have a low level of protective security and places known to be possible terrorist targets. The level of our advice has not changed. Exercise a high degree of caution in the Philippines overall,” the travel advisory said.
“Higher levels apply in some parts of the country,” it added.
The Australian government also asked citizens to exercise a high degree of caution in the Philippines due to the high threat of terrorist attack and the high level of crime.
It also adviced citizens to seek specific advice for the locations you intend to visit. Reconsider your need to travel to eastern Mindanao due to the very high levels of violent crime and the high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping.
“Do not travel to central and western Mindanao due to the very high threat of kidnapping, terrorist attack, violent crime and violent clashes between armed groups. See Safety and security.”
“There is a high threat of terrorist attack in the Philippines, including Manila. Exercise heightened caution at this time. Be alert for possible threats around locations that have a low level of protective security and places known to be possible terrorist targets,” it added.
The travel advisory said possible targets for terrorist attacks include commercial and public places frequented by foreigners, such as transport hubs, the metro system, hotels, shopping malls, clubs restaurants, bars, schools, markets, places of worship, outdoor recreation events and tourist areas.
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