After travel warnings, Philippines boosts resort security
Philippine military commanders are heightening security at tourist hot spots following travel warnings by the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada to vacationers headed for resorts in the Sulu and Celebes seas.
Philippine Army spokesman Col. Edgar Arevalo said Philippine forces are setting up extra security checkpoints in tourist areas, although he does not have intelligence indicating a specific threat, The Daily Telegraph, a British newspaper, reported.
The U.S. Embassy in Manila in early May 2017 said it had “credible information” that terrorists in Palawan province were plotting to kidnap foreign nationals. The warning included Puerto Princesa City and areas near Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, pictured. The embassy urged travelers to “avoid large crowds and gatherings and remain vigilant at all times.”
After the advisory was issued, Canada and the United Kingdom issued similar warnings, but they included additional destinations in the central Philippines.
While the Philippine military increases security to protect visitors, it also is engaged in an intense crackdown on the Abu Sayyaf Group, a terrorist organization with links to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Philippine military forces in April 2017 foiled an attempted kidnapping raid on Bohol island by Abu Sayyaf militants. A fierce gun battle broke out when Army Soldiers found the militants one day after they arrived at the island on speedboats, the Daily Mail, a British newspaper, reported. Nine militants, three Philippine Soldiers and one police officer were killed. Another Abu Sayyaf fighter died in police custody.
Abu Sayyaf regularly kidnaps foreigners and locals for ransom. The group wants to establish an Islamic state over several islands in the Philippines. In recent years, the militants also have attacked cargo and merchant ships, and those attacks spurred another travel advisory.
The U.S. Maritime Administration in early May 2017 issued a warning for U.S.-flagged vessels traveling through the Sulu and Celebes seas. Ship operators are advised to adhere to counterpiracy measures. The administration noted that 14 kidnappings and one murder have been reported in those areas over the past year. At least 10 kidnappings were linked to Abu Sayyaf.
Previously, only towing and fishing vessels were targeted. The Maritime Administration said that since October 2016, however, Abu Sayyaf Group has attacked three commercial vessels and one yacht. In November 2016, they boarded a German yacht and killed a crew member. Abu Sayyaf in February 2017 killed the remaining crew member after ransom was not paid.
Despite these attacks, the Philippine government says it is dismantling the terrorist group one battle at a time. The Armed Forces of the Philippines reported in May 2017 that it has killed 60 militants in 29 operations conducted since January 2017, The Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper reported.