Australia warns citizens from travel to Zamboanga, Sulu

By Roy Mabasa 

The Australian government on Wednesday warned its citizens of the “very high” threat of kidnapping in various parts of southern Philippines, specifically in the Zamboanga Peninsula, the Sulu archipelago and the coastal waters between the Philippines and Sabah.

In the latest travel advisory issued by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, it advised its nationals to “exercise a high degree of caution” when traveling to the Philippines, especially in the southern parts of the country.

“We have reviewed our travel advice for the Philippines. We remind Australians of the very high threat of kidnapping in the southern Philippines, especially along the Zamboanga peninsula, in the Sulu Archipelago and in coastal waters between Philippines and Sabah, Malaysia. We haven't changed the level of our advice ‘exercise a high degree of caution’ in the Philippines. Higher levels apply in the southern parts of the country,” the Australian government said in the advisory posted on its website.

Australia’s travel advisory came days after a 59-year-old Dutch national held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) for seven years was killed when he tried to escape during a gun battle in Patikul, Sulu.

Ewold Horn, a birdwatcher and wildlife photographer, was shot dead as he attempted to flee his captors during a raid by Philippine army troops on May 31.

Reports showed that Horn was abducted in 2012 together with Swiss birdwatcher Lorenzo Vinciguerra. The latter, however, was able to escape in 2014.

In 2016, Canadian nationals John Ridsdel and Robert Hall were executed by the ASG militants after more than nine months in captivity.