US updates travel warning for Philippines

Posted at 06/15/11 8:57 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The United States on Wednesday warned its citizens to exercise extreme caution when travelling to the Philippines due to the risk of terrorist activity, particularly in the Sulu Archipelago and on the island of Mindanao.

A statement from the US State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs said the new travel warning replaces the earlier travel warning dated Nov. 2, 2010.

"Terrorist attacks could be indiscriminate and could occur in other areas, to include Manila. Targeted sites may be public gathering places including, but not limited to, airports, shopping malls, conference centers, and other public venues," the statement said.

The US State Department said US nationals should exercise extreme caution if traveling to Mindanao or the Sulu Archipelago.

It said regional terrorist groups have carried out bombings resulting in injuries and death.

"Sporadic clashes have occurred between lawless groups and the Philippine Armed Forces throughout Mindanao, particularly in rural areas. US Government employees must seek special permission to travel to Mindanao or the Sulu Archipelago," the US State Department said.

The travel advisory warned that a state of emergency remains in effect in Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces, as well as Cotabato City in Mindanao, as a result of the November 23, 2009 massacre in Ampatuan town.

It said US travelers should be aware of heightened police activity and significant military presence in these areas.

"They should carefully research restrictions imposed on travel and follow the instructions of government officials," it said.

It also warned US nationals of the threat of kidnap-for-ransom gangs in the Philippines that target foreigners.

"US citizens traveling, living, and working throughout the Philippines are urged to exercise heightened caution in public gathering places.  US citizens should exercise caution when traveling in the vicinity of demonstrations since they can turn confrontational and possibly escalate to violence," it said.