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Australian gov’t issues travel warnings for Mindanao

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has issued a travel advisory for Mindanao following threats of terrorism particularly in Cotabato City.

On its website, the DFAT advises Australians to exercise “high degree of caution” and reconsider traveling to eastern Mindanao.

“Think seriously about whether you need to travel here due to the high level of risk. If you do travel, do your research and take a range of extra safety precautions, including having contingency plans. Check that your travel insurer will cover you,” the advisory read.

Meanwhile, the DFAT advises Australian citizens to defer their plans to travel to central and western parts of Mindanao, including the Zamboanga Peninsula, and the Sulu Archipelago and southern Sulu Sea area.

“We advise against all travel here due to the very high risk. If you do travel, you should typically seek professional security advice. Be aware that regular travel insurance policies will be void and that the Australian Government is unlikely to be able to provide consular assistance,” the DFAT said.

 

Photo courtesy of Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Australia’s travel advisory comes after the British government’s similar measure to caution their citizens following the deadly bomb attack in Cotabato City on New Year’s Eve that killed two people and injured more than 30 individuals. —Marje Pelayo

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Magnitude 6.5 quake jolts parts of Visayas

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – A magnitude 6.5 earthquake jolted parts of Visayas on Tuesday afternoon, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) reported.

In its bulletin, Phivolcs said the earthquake hit at 1:37 p.m. and its epicenter was located in San Julian, Eastern Samar. It was of tectonic origin and had a depth of 63 kilometers.

Varying quake intensities were felt in different areas in the Visayas, as well as in Bicol and Surigao del Sur areas:

Intensity VI – San Julian, Eastern Samar

Intensity V – Tacloban City; Catbalogan City, Samar; Gen. McArthur, Salcedo and Guiuan, Eastern Samar; Naval, Biliran; Catarman, Northern Samar; Palo and Pastrana, Leyte;

Intensity IV – Abuyog, Hilongos, Javier, Capoocan, Julieta, Baybay, Barogo, Jaro, MacArthur, Matalum, Villaba, Leyte; San Francisco, Southern Leyte; Bislig City, Surigao del Sur; Iloilo City; Naga City; Sorsogon City; Panganiban, Catanduanes;

Intensity III – Binalbagan, Negros Occidental; Cabalian, Southern Leyte; Dimasalang, Masbate; Butuan City; Cabadbaran City;

Intensity II – Bago City; Bacolod City

Phivolcs said aftershocks and damage are expected from the earthquake. – Robie de Guzman

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PNP alert level up as local campaign period begins Friday

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Thursday, March 28th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) has placed its forces on heightened alert in preparation for the start of the campaign period for local bets on Friday, March 28.

During the heightened alert, police visibility across the country will be intensified, the duty hours of police personnel are extended and leaves of absence are cancelled.

PNP Spokesperson Police Colonel Bernard Banac explained the increased police presence and ground operations, especially in areas under the control of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), aims to prevent the occurrence of election-related crimes as local campaign and elections tend to get more heated.

“Inaasahan natin na magiging mainit ang magiging kampanya sa local na level subalit ang PNP ay nakahanda na tumugon sa lahat ng pangangailangan, sa mga insidente maaaring mangyari,” Banac said.

(We expect that the looming local campaign period will get more heated, but the PNP is ready to respond to all possible scenarios.)

Banac added that they will closely monitor the status of the so-called election hotspots in the country.

The PNP has identified more than 700 hotspots for the 2019 midterm elections when the official campaign period for national candidates began last February 12.

Of this number, there are 223 areas of concern or under yellow category, which means there is an intense political rivalry or a history of election-related incident in these areas.

Orange category or areas of immediate concern due to serious armed threat or presence of rebels and terrorists cover 382 barangays; while more than 90 were placed under red category or areas of grave concern for exhibiting combined factors of the first two categories.

Last week, Comelec declared the entire Mindanao as an election hotspot under category red due to serious armed threats made by rebels and terrorists groups such as the New People’s Army and the Abu Sayyaf Group.

READ: Comelec declares entire Mindanao, other areas as 2019 poll hotspots

The PNP, however, assured that its forces are ready to respond to any poll-related violence that may arise in the run-up to the Midterm Elections slated on May 13.

“Kung meron mang sumiklab na karahasan lalo na sa mga nasa red category o areas of grave concern ay nakahanda po ang buong PNP at kaagapay natin ang AFP na rumesponde sa anomang pangyayari,” Banac assured.

(In case violence breaks out especially in areas under red category or areas of grave concern, the entire PNP force is ready, with the help of the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines], to respond to any scenario)

The PNP also urged the candidates anew to strictly observe election rules to avoid any untoward incidents.

Policemen are also reminded to remain apolitical or refrain from engaging in any political campaign or word war among election bets. – Robie de Guzman (with details from Lea Ylagan)

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Save the Children reports 76,000 minors displaced by hostilities in Mindanao

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

Children in war-torn Marawi continue taking classes in temporary learning shelters after the siege destroyed majority of the schools in the city

A recent report by Save the Children Foundation showed that 76,383 children in Mindanao have been displaced by the hostilities in the last two months.

They expressed concern over these children who suffer from hunger, trauma and have been missing out on school.

According to Save the Children Philippines Chief Executive Officer Albert Muyot “children’s experience of conflict ranges from killing and maiming, to witnessing the destruction of their homes, schools, communities and the death of their loved ones.”

From five conflict-affected Mindanao provinces, 127,306 individuals were displaced and 76,383 of them are children.

“Two years after the siege, there are still 66,000 people living in tents in Marawi, while there are 12,000 displaced Lumads or Indigenous People (7,200 of them are children) in Surigao del Sur due to heavy fighting for over a year now,” the group said.

READ: Protection of children in armed conflict passes into law

The group is calling for aid for these children and access to humanitarian support.

In February this year, they launched “Stop the War on Children”, a worldwide campaign. It seeks immediate action to provide aid for children in conflicted areas.

“There is still hope for children living in conflict today, but this will require concerted action from governments and non-state actors. We can and must stop the children of today from becoming the forgotten generations of tomorrow, ” according to Helle Thorning-Schmidt Chief Executive of Save the Children International.—Aileen Cerrudo

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