Still safe to travel to Mindanao: Palace

By Azer Parrocha

January 3, 2019, 3:08 pm

MANILA -- Malacañang on Thursday assured the international community that it is still safe to travel to Mindanao amid international security warnings issued in the wake of the bomb attack in Cotabato City last December 31.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this remark after the United Kingdom (UK) and Australian governments issued advisories, warning their nationals against traveling to Mindanao.

“It’s natural for any foreign government, or any government for that matter, to be concerned for the welfare, the safety of their citizens,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

“We cannot blame them kung nagkaroon sila ng ganyang pananaw sapagkat nagkaroon ng bombahan sa Cotabato (if they have that impression because of the bombing incident in Cotabato),” he added.

Panelo, however, noted that the bomb attack, which killed two persons and wounded 34 others, is an “isolated case.”

“In so far as the national defense secretary is concerned, it’s very safe to travel in Mindanao,” he said.

Department of National Defense (DND) spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said “there is nothing new” with the advisories since governments regularly issue them to their citizens who are overseas.

Andolong said governments simply want to remind their citizens to take precautions when traveling to countries that have the presence of bandits and terrorists.

Earlier, UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised its citizens against travel to western and central Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago because of terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgents.

The FCO also advised against all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao (excluding Camiguin, Dinagat and Siargao Islands) and to the south of Cebu province, up to and including the municipalities of Dalaguete and Badian, due to the threat of terrorism.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, meanwhile, advised its citizens to avoid travel to western and central Mindanao, to reconsider travel to eastern Mindanao, and exercise a "high degree of caution" when traveling to the Philippines.

The Philippine National Police said the situation in Cotabato City has now normalized and that its forces are currently focusing on preventing a repeat of the incident. (PNA)