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Palace downplays travel warnings on PH

  • Written by Efren Montano With Cristina Lee-Pisco
  • Published in Top Stories
  • Read: 157

“It’s still more fun here in the Philippines.”

Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar yesterday made the remark as Malacañang downplayed the travel advisories on the Philippines, notably in Mindanao, in the aftermath of the Davao blast last Friday,stressing that travel in the country remains  safe.

“Life continues here in the Philippines; it’s still more fun here in the Philippines. It’s just one place in the south where it happened,” Andanar said.
   
The Palace official said the travel advisories are just but “normal being issued by embassies of foreign countries for the protection of their citizens.”
   
“Well, ganyan naman talaga ‘di ba? Kapag may nangyayari (ay) naglalabas naman ng travel advisories ‘yung mga bansang America, usually, Canada at Australia. So ‘yan, wala namang bago d’yan. Talagang it’s also their duty to advise their citizens who are traveling to be careful,”Andanar stressed.
   
He added that Malacañang realized that “ it was a terrorist act done exactly to arrest our development here in the south, pointing out that it is normal for these countries to issue their travel warning.”
   
“It’s their responsibility to their citizens,” Andanar said.
   
“However, the AFP and the Philippine National Police have been on alert for the last few days,” he stressed.
   
“But, you know, it’s just one. The country has thousand, hundred islands, and you can choose from other cities and other municipalities and other spots in the Philippines. And it’s really up to the traveler  kung saan niya gustong pumunta. But we can assure them that they are safe,” Andanar said.
   
Andanar urged the public , especially Metro Manila residents,not to to be scared but be vigiliant with their surroundings.
   
“Do not be afraid, but be alert. Let’s help our authorities. And if you see anything suspicious, mga acts of talagang hindi normal i-report ninyo po sa inyong awtoridad, i-report ninyo po sa barangay tanod, sa barangay, sa pulis, sa militar. Let us help each other because our country, the democracy, 104 million people, hindi natin pinagbabawal bumiyahe ang ating mga kababayan and the best way really is to help each other,” he said.
   
On Saturday, the United States Embassy in Manila  issued an emergency message temporarily suspending all official travel to Mindanao even if there is no information that indicates there is a direct threat to American citizens or interests in the Philippines.
   
“The Embassy encourages all U.S. citizens to remain vigilant and employ sound personal security measures as you go about your day.  The Embassy will continue to monitor the current state of affairs in the Philippines and will release additional messages as needed,” the message stated.
   
“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.  The Embassy reminds U.S. citizens of the importance of taking preventative measures to ensure their safety and security while traveling and residing in the Philippines,” it added.
   
The Embassy also noted that the PNP has been circulating letters in some communities, to include residential villages, outlining plans to search homes as part of the Philippine government’s ongoing anti-drug campaign.
   
“Local PNP leadership has informed the Embassy that the village sweeps are intended for the sole purpose of distributing information pamphlets so that residents know who to contact to report crimes or suspicious behavior. After these materials are distributed, barangay and PNP officials will conduct “knock and plead” operations only at those homes suspected of involvement in illegal drug operations,” the advisory said.
   
The governments of Australia, Canada and Singapore have also advised their citizens in the country to exercise high degree of caution after the Davao blast on Friday.
   
There is now a high threat of terrorist attacks across the Philippines, the three governments said in separate travel advisories after the US-listed terrorist group Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for the bombings.
   
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on Saturday told its citizens “to reconsider traveling to eastern Mindanao, including Davao City, and to exercise a high degree of caution in the Philippines.”
   
It added that “higher levels (of caution) apply in some parts of the country.”
   
“Australians in Davao should exercise heightened vigilance, avoid the affected area and follow the advise of local authorities,” Australia’s travel warning stated.
   
Singapore Embassy in Manila condemned the bomb explosion in Davao City.
   
“Singapore condemns the bomb explosion in Davao City, Philippines, on Sept. 2, which killed and injured many innocent people. We extend our deepest condolences to the bereaved families and wish the injured a speedy recovery,” the embassy posted on its official Facebook page.
   
The Singapore government advised its citizens to exercise vigilance and contact the embassy.
   
“Singaporeans in the Philippines are advised to exercise vigilance, and monitor the local news and instructions of the local authorities,” it added.
   
Meanwhile, the Canadian government updated its “security tab” and advised citizens from traveling to Mindanao and Sulu archipelago due to heightened threat of terrorist attacks.
   
The Global Affairs Canada, in its website posted red warnings on travels to Mindanao region, Sulu archipelago and southern Sulu Sea as it warned its citizens “to exercise a high degree of caution” following the bombing in Davao City.
   
“There is no nationwide advisory in effect for the Philippines. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to an ongoing terrorist threat to Westerners and Western interests,” said Canada’s travel advisory on Saturday.
   
The Canadian government also told its citizens not to travel to Mindanao region due to serious threats of terrorist attacks and kidnapping, adding “the Government of Canada’s ability to provide consular assistance in this region is limited.”
   
It added that Canadian citizens should avoid 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.”
   
An explosive device was detonated in a crowded market in Davao Friday evening, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to declare a State of Lawlessness across the country.
   
Members of the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines have been placed on high alert.