If there’s one thing in common that the US State Department (through the US Embassy) and the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office share, it’s the fact that their travel advisories to their citizens contain travel warnings for Mindanao.
In a parallel post in Barrio Siete, I’ve pointed out how the travel advisory by two influential countries in the world has dire implications for Philippine tourism and investments. It’s a pity that a region which boasts of the richest, most unspoiled tourism spots in the country suffers from negative first impressions, simply because there exists in some areas a rash of kidnappings, terrorism threats and civil war for decades. And most recently, there is of course the shock brought about by the utter violence of the Maguindanao massacre.
As of November 24, 2009, the US Embassy Manila – through its embassy warden system – updated its old travel warning to Mindanao to include the Maguindanao incident:
” Travelers should exercise extreme caution if traveling in the central and western portions of the island of Mindanao, as well as in the islands of the Sulu Archipelago. Recent violence in Maguindanao resulted in the Government of the Philippines declaring a state of emergency in the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat and the city of Cotabato. The state of emergency includes road checkpoints conducted by the Philippine military and law enforcement. If U.S. citizens travel to Maguindanao despite this Travel Alert, they should understand there are heightened tensions and there will be a significant military presence. They should carefully research restrictions imposed upon travel and follow the instructions of officials with regards to limitations on movement.”
I actually find reading the travel advisory very informative. Here, I learn that “some foreigners who reside in or visit Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago hire their own security.”
Funny, but even if I am a Filipino, I get jitters about travelling to the region – even if it’s a simple thing as riding the plane to Davao. Even if I’d be rich enough to hire security, it has to be security I trust. This is all unfortunate since there are some beautiful areas in Mindanao I’d really love to see, like Lake Sebu and Tawi-tawi.
There are only 30 countries in the world where the US State Department has placed CCurrent Travel Warnings. A country in the list is deemed “dangerous and unstable” for the long term. Unfortunately, the Philippines is the only country in Asia to make it to the list, and it’s put in the same league as Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Haiti, Yemen, and Sudan, among others.
Tsk, tsk. See the reasons why.