Terror alert high in Mindanao

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — US Ambassador Kristie Kenney yesterday said the threat of terrorism is still high in the country despite the Philippine government’s efforts to combat terrorism especially in Mindanao.

US nationals continue to be advised against traveling particularly to Southern Mindanao, Kenney said.

“We’ve seen great efforts from the Philippine government in battling terrorism. To complement this effort the United States government has been sending terrorism experts to the country to help the Philippine government go after suspected terrorists. Yes, there are indications that terrorism activity in the country is still high,” Kenney said. She led a group of US attaché officials at the Department of Education for the formal turnover of peace education video modules for elementary schools in Mindanao as part of US Agency for International Development assistance.

Dubbed as “Television Education for the Advancement of Muslim Mindanao,” the project is managed by the Knowledge Channel Foundation, Inc. and will be shown to Muslim and Christian schools in selected remote areas in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

However, Kenney herself appeared unperturbed by the threat of terrorism, disclosing that she is planning to visit Davao City in the next few days “to see and assess the situation in Mindanao.”

Kenney said the US government will issue its overall assessment of the situation in Southern Mindanao after US experts on terrorism have evaluated the current situation there.

“Our terrorism experts are helping the Philippine government assess the situation. Our travel advisory two weeks ago or so remains especially in Southern Mindanao,” Kenney said.

Just lately, a series of bus bombings erupted in Davao del Sur and North Cotabato.

Police said these bombings could be related to extortion activities.

Meanwhile, Kenney said the US government strongly supports the vision of the leaders of the ARMM to achieve lasting peace and development in Mindanao through comprehensive Islamic education.

The USAID recently conducted a one-week training class for ustadzes (Islamic teachers) to integrate English, science, and math into the basic Islamic and Arabic teaching in madrasahs.

The training was held by USAID’s Education Quality and Access for Learning and Livelihood Skills (EQuALLS) Project, which works throughout the Philippines on programs to improve the quality of education for Filipino schoolchildren.

UK also issues travel advisory

THE United Kingdom has advised its citizens against all travel to Mindanao due to a bus bomb explosion in Bansalan, Davao del Sur and the abduction of Italian Catholic priest Fr. Giancarlo Bossi.

Travel to rebel-infested areas of Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Jolo is strongly discouraged due to ongoing military and police operations against insurgent groups, UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.

“There is a high threat from terrorism throughout the Philippines. 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,” the British warning said.

Attacks could be indiscriminate and include civilian targets in public places such as those frequented by foreigners, the advisory stressed.

British travelers were also advised to be aware of the risk of terrorist attacks to road, rail, sea and air transport in the Philippines.

“There is a threat of kidnapping throughout the Philippines. We continue to believe that terrorists and criminal elements plan to kidnap foreign tourists from islands and coastal areas in the southern Philippines. Kidnappings from other parts of the Philippines cannot be discounted. Boats travelling to and from offshore islands and dive sites are possible targets,” it added.

Around 65,000 British tourists visit the Philippines every year.