UK warns its citizens against traveling to S Philippines

19:41, October 15, 2009      

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The United Kingdom has warned its citizens against traveling to southwest Mindanao following the abduction of an Irish priest by alleged members of a Muslim rebel group over the weekend.

In an updated travel advisory Thursday on its Foreign Office's website, the UK expressed concern on the ongoing threat of kidnapping of foreign nationals in Mindanao, citing the case of Columban priest Fr. Michael Sinott, who was snatched in his home in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur by heavily armed men believed to be members of the separatist rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The MILF has denied involvement in the kidnapping.

"You should be aware that the long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking," the UK advisory said.

The UK alerted its citizens of the "high threat" of terrorism throughout the Philippines, saying terrorist groups continue to plan attacks and have the capacity and the intent to carry out these attacks at "any time and anywhere in the country."

Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travelers, it said.

Areas being banned for travel by the UK are: the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, including the islands of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, plus the eastern provinces of Sarangani, North and South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Surand Zamboanga Sibugay.

"We advise against all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao. This is because of ongoing terrorist activity there have been a number of terrorist attacks against civilian targets," it said.

British nationals were also warned of the risk of terrorist attacks to all forms of public transport, such as road, rail, sea and air.

Around 70,000 British tourists visit the Philippines every year.

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