UK amends travel advisory to Mindanao

LONDON (July 16) — The British government has amended its travel advisory to the Philippines allowing “essential travels” to most parts of Mindanao but at the same cautioned its citizens against all travel to south west Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago “because of ongoing terrorist and insurgent activity.”

In May 2009, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) amended its travel advisory to the Philippines by lifting travel restrictions to the “east side of Mindanao.”

The latest travel advisory, issued by the UK FCO on July 12, expanded the allowable areas for travel to include all parts of Mindanao except Southwest Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago. These areas include the provinces of Sarangani, North and South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, and Zamboanga Sibugay.

The UK’s latest amendment reflected its improving outlook for Mindanao. After three years of banning all travel to the region, the FCO revised its travel advisories following representations from the Philippine Embassy in London.

Early this July, a high-level delegation from the DFA and the Philippine Embassy met with FCO officials in London to request the British government to modify its advisory for Mindanao and allow British travelers to explore top tourism destinations there.

The latest amendment is expected to encourage more British investors and tourists to visit the Philippines. British travelers remain the largest European market for Philippine tourism. A total of 87,422 Britons visited the country in 2008, registering a 9.73 percent growth from the previous year.

Eco-tourism is of particular importance to the British market, especially for bird watching. The UK is home to some two million birdwatchers, which led Tourism Secretary Ace Durano to launch a bird-watching campaign in London in December 2008.

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