By Gilda Pasion-Balan, Manila Correspondent
MANILA -- The United Kingdomand Canadian embassies on Tuesday, April 12, issued advisories, urging theircitizens to be vigilant if they visit the Philippines due to reported terroristthreats in Central Visayas. The advisories came in the wake of the US embassyin Manila issuing an advisory on Sunday, April 9, against travel to Cebu andBohol.
The US embassy had cited “unsubstantiatedyet credible” information that terrorists were planning on kidnappingforeigners in the area outside their turf. Later events proved the embassycorrect.
Boholanos had reported to theArmed Forces of the Philippines as well as the Department of Interior and LocalGovernments that “outsiders” had landed in three pump boats on their island whospoke in what sounded like a Mindanao dialect.
Also on Tuesday, clashesbetween the military and suspected Abu Sayyaf terrorists occurred in Bohol.News reports reaching Manila said five suspected militants, three soldiers anda policeman were killed in a firefight in the mountain village of Napo,Inabanga town, Bohol.
It was the first time thatadvisories had been issued against travel to Cebu and nearby Bohol, two of thecountry’s top destinations for local and foreign tourists, particularly duringthe current summer season.
The failed assault on foreigntourists would have been a repeat of the terrorists’ successful kidnapping forransom of a group of 20 foreign and local tourists in the Dos Palmas resort in Palawanin 2001.
Just as they did in Bohol lastweek, the terrorists arrived via pump boat. But unlike the Dos Palmaskidnappings done with military precision, the group that went to CentralVisayas were unable to capture a single victim.
As of presstime, a combinedmilitary and police team supported by air strikes from the Philippine Air Forcewas still engaged in a firefight with the terrorists.
By late evening Tuesday, morethan 1,000 families from the affected village had been evacuated.
This week should have been thehigh point of tourist arrivals for Cebu and Bohol, but this will no longer bethe case. The US, UK and Canadian advisories are not expected to be lifteduntil the AFP confirms that all the terrorists have either been killed orcaptured.