THE Philippine National Police confirmed Monday the existence of terror threats in Central Visayas following an advisory of the US Embassy in Manila to its citizens to avoid visiting the region.
PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa, in a press conference in Camp Crame, said police in Central Visayas monitored the threat in the region but said the PNP was ready to thwart such terrorist attacks.
The United States Embassy, in a statement, said it has received unsubstantiated yet credible information that terrorist groups may attempt to conduct kidnappings in Central Visayas, which includes both Cebu and Bohol provinces.
American citizens were advised to carefully consider such an information as they make their travel plans, and to review personal security plans, avoid large crowds and gatherings, and remain vigilant at all times.
Canada on Monday also issued a travel advisory to its citizens to exercise a high degree of caution in traveling to the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao, due to the threat of terrorism and high level of crime.
“Global Affairs Canada advises against all travel to the Mindanao region, excluding urban areas of Davao City, due to the serious threat of terrorist attacks and kidnapping. The government of Canada’s ability to provide consular assistance in this region is limited,” the Canadian government said in its advisory.
The Canadian government also said citizens must avoid all travel in the Sulu archipelago and through the southern Sulu Sea, including waters off southern Palawan Island, due to the threat of piracy and kidnappings in this area.
“There are identifiable safety and security concerns or the safety and security situation could change with little notice,” the Canadian government said.
“You should exercise a high degree of caution at all times, monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities,” it added.
Dela Rosa reminded tourists to avoid travel to places with a history of kidnapping or areas where the Abu Sayyaf bandits are active.
The US had issued previous travel warning in December last year in the wake of terror threats from Sulu-based groups.
Security concerns were heightened by the recent arrest of two ISIS members, Husayn Al-Dhafiri, a Kuwaiti citizen, and Rahaf Zina, a Syrian national, in a safe house in Taguig City.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday assured tourists that they have nothing to worry about despite the warning from the US Embassy.
Before leaving for a three-country swing in the Middle East, Duterte vowed he would deal harshly with terrorists.
On Monday, the military said three militiamen were killed and 11 government soldiers were wounded in two heavy firefights against Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Barangay Cabcaban, Sumisip, Basilan.
Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command, said eight of the wounded were airlifted to Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga City, while three were admitted to a hospital in Basilan.
Petinglay said there were undetermined number of casualties on the enemy side based on blood found on escape routes.
Members of the 4th Special Forces battalion were on combat patrol at around 7:15 a.m. when they encountered the terrorists.
The troops were reinforced at 7:45 a.m. by the 1st Special Forces Company.
Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Carliot Galvez Jr. said he ordered the setting up of a patrol base in the barangay to serve as a deterrent to the bandits.
“The military will continue to secure the area and work with the local chief executives to contain the Abu Sayyaf bandits in the barangay,” he said. With Sara Susanne D. Fabunan, John Paolo Bencito and PNA