Recent kidnappings – how dangerous is Mindanao?
For long time, travel warnings are out, advising everybody to not go to Mindanao: all websites of foreign embassies warn against traveling to Mindanao in the southern Philippines. However, only certain areas in Mindanao were considered to be dangerous.
This has changed now: in the last three weeks there were three cases of abductions of foreigners. Two of the kidnappings were carried out in areas considered being safe.
Three cases of kidnappings of foreigners in three weeks
21.Sep.2015: At 11 pm, two Canadians, one Norwegian and a Filipina were abducted from a posh resort on Samal Island, near Davao, by a group of 11 armed perpetrators. They were on a yacht in a marina at the Ocean View Resort. Until this event, this area was considered as a safe place, and therefore this kidnapping came as a surprise for everyone. Till the time of writing this post, nothing is known about the whereabouts of the kidnapped folks.
7.Oct. 2015: An Italian, who has been living in Mindanao for around 30 years, working as a christian missionary in Mindanao in the 80th and 90th of the last century , was abducted from his pizzeria in Dipolog City at 7 pm. The perpetrators forced him under gunpoint into a waiting van, which brought them to a motorboat, bringing victim and kidnappers to Jolo Island, 400 km to the south. This island is the main base of the Islamist terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, which are known for kidnappings, beheadings and terror attacks against foreigners and Christian missionaries.
8.Oct.2015: A six year old British girl – her father is British, her mother Filipina – got kidnapped on Basilan Island in southern Mindanao. MILF – the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, who are fighting for an independent state in the southern Philippines, are suspected to be the perpetrators. MILF have often abducted foreigners in the past. The kidnappers demanded 100,000 pesos from the mother. As the mother didn´t have this sum of money at hand, the perpetrators abducted her daughter.
Is Mindanao too dangerous for foreigners?
Most parts of the Philippines are peaceful. But there are places that are considered unsafe. Terrorism can be a danger to tourists, and is an expanding problem.
Certain areas in Mindanao should absolutely be avoided – the Sulu Islands, the Zamboanga Peninsula, General Santos area, Bukidnon – roughly speaking, the entire south and southwest of Mindanao. As a tourist, you’re a potential target for kidnappers, as kidnapping a foreigner gives more media coverage, and usually also higher ransom can be demanded.
This danger is well known. Therefore certain areas in Mindanao were declared to be too dangerous, and to be avoided by foreigners. But many areas, specially the east and northern part of Mindanao, were considered safe. The two incidents in Samal Island and Dipolog City, both considered areas safe of terrorism, are alarming.
How does that affect you as a tourist?
Avoid the well known dangerous areas in Mindanao. It is impossible to say if these incidents in “safe” areas were two single incidents, or if they are part of a bigger plan to expand the area of action of terrorist groups Abu Sayyaf and MILF.
Best is to avoid areas that are considered dangerous, and you will spend a nice time in the Philippines.