While our government is hard-pressed to argue with foreign governments on their assessment of our country’s security, the latest travel advisory from Great Britain clashes with the glowing opinions of travelers who have stayed in our shores.
The United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued an advisory against travel to Dalaguete and Badian towns in southern Cebu due to what it called “the threat of terrorism.”
“Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in the Philippines, including in Manila. Terrorist groups continue to plan attacks and have the capacity and the intent to carry out attacks at any time and anywhere in the country, including in places visited by foreigners, like airports, shopping malls, public transport, including the metro system, and places of worship,” the travel advisory posted in the UK website read.
The advisory added that these towns in Cebu and those in Central and Western Mindanao and in Sulu province should be avoided due to “clashes between the military and insurgent groups.” By this, they would probably mean the Abu Sayyaf bandits whose latest misadventure included a sneaky side trip to Bohol province, which is near Cebu’s southern towns and had been hosting an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) meeting at that time.
That had probably raised the hackles of the UK officials and prompted them to issue the advisory in the first place. But unlike the Marawi City siege that had all but just concluded, the Abu Sayyaf misadventure lasted barely a month and resulted in the deaths of the perpetrators including a former native of Bohol.
But compare that advisory with a recent article by Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards that named Cebu next only to the Philippines’ own Boracay Island and higher than Palawan Island in the best islands in the world list.
The survey described Cebu as “not as wild” as Phuket, Thailand, and is more “personal, with plenty of up-and-coming restaurants and shopping [malls].”
While it’s a positive endorsement from readers of a reputable international publication, we seriously doubt if that UK office considered it in their assessment report.
Still, that Bohol misadventure by the Abu Sayyaf bandits will be quite difficult to erase from the minds of the UK government, and while we can present a case to refute their advisory, bad mouthing them simply won’t do.
Cebu’s tourism stakeholders also know better as the steady stream of tourists from countries in Europe, Asia and the US continue to grow and may even exceed last year’s figures owing to the continuing expansion of facilities such as the Mactan–Cebu International Airport.
While the advisories from other countries have yet to be lifted, time and effort by Cebu’s local governments with assistance from the military, police and other sectors can help dispel these security concerns and put any doubts to rest about their safety in our shores.
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