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Canada issues new travel alert on the Philippines

Canada has issued a new travel alert on the Philippines because of the possibility of kidnapping by terrorist groups.

Canada joined the U.S. and the United Kingdom in issuing separate travel advisories for their nationals to avoid visiting the island province of Palawan.

Palawan, known as the country’s “last frontier” for its firm stand to protect its environment and natural resources like forests as well as its seas and rivers, has become one of the Philippines major tourist attractions.

Canada warned against “elevated threat of kidnapping.”

In their advisories, the embassies of the three countries in Manila cited “credible information that terrorist groups may be planning to conduct kidnapping operations targeting foreign nationals.”

The advisories urged their nationals to review their travel plans to visit Palawan’s capital city of Puerto Princesa and the areas surrounding the world-famous Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.

The advisories also warned their nationals to take all the necessary precautions by avoiding large crowds and gatherings and “to remain vigilant at all times.”

Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez said the local government has not monitored any terror threats but it is prepared for any scenarios.

Colonel Egard Arevalo, the spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), disputed the travel advisories, pointing out they have not received any information regarding terrorist threats in Palawan.

“We are not aware as to where the US embassy obtained the information. If there is any, it did not come from the AFP,” Arevalo told a media briefing in a mix of Filipino and English.

Arevalo said they while they respected the latest travel advisories of the US, UK and Canada, he assured the safety of the thousands of foreign and Filipino tourists visiting Palawan especially during the summer season.

Ironically, government security forces also tended to belittle the travel advisories issued by the U.S. and UK embassies warning their nationals against possible terrorist attacks in Central Visayas in April.

Canada also issued a travel advisory in April this year.

A day after the advisories came out, about 10 members of the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf terrorists arrived by boat from Sulu in Mindanao on the island province of Bohol, another major tourist attraction in the Visayas, to pursue their kidnap-for-ransom activities.

At least eight of the terrorist as well as three soldiers including a junior officer and a policemen were killed in the subsequent clashes as the government issued the usual assurance that “everything was under control.”

In its travel advisory, the U.S. government said: “U.S citizens are advised to carefully consider this information as they make their travel plans and to review personal security plans, avoid large crowds and gatherings, and remain vigilant at all times,” the advisory said, adding that the advice is based on reliable information .