Are the American politicians smoking something that they should not be smoking? Sometimes, it seems so. In the last day or two, the United States Government issued another travel warning to American Citizens, warning against travel to Mindanao. What else is new.
Fact is, the USA has been issuing travel warnings against visiting Mindanao for years now, without ceasing. Usually, whenever anything bad happens in any way on the Island of Mindanao, a new travel warning is issued by the US Government.
So, what happened on the Island of Mindanao recently to prompt this new travel warning? Basically, nothing has happened. Why was the new travel warning issued? Really, about the only new thing in the latest travel warning was that there will be possible violence related to the Election on May 10. Also, they are warning of possible upheaval on June 30, because of the Installation of a new President in the Philippines.
Hold on. Something is not right on this. Firstly, the May 10 Election is taking place in the entire Philippines, not just on Mindanao. Secondly, the Installation of a new President will be happening in Manila, almost as far from Mindanao as one could get while still remaining in the Philippines. So, why warn against being in Mindanao on June 30, or even on May 10?
It really makes no sense to me. I have lived in Mindanao for 10 years now. I have visited almost every part of Mindanao in those 10 years. Are there dangerous places in Mindanao? You better believe it, and I’ve been to most of those places. Does this danger encompass the entire Island, or most of it? Ha ha… not even close. The fact is that probably as much as 90% of Mindanao is quite safe. Davao City is hailed by many agencies as the safest City in the Philippines. Yet, Davao is usually specifically mentioned in these travel advisories.
How many Americans were killed in Mindanao in 2009? None that I know of. How many in 2008? Again, none that I am aware of. The last American that I can remember being killed on the Island of Mindanao was Martin Burnham, and that happened in 2001. Burnham was not even kidnapped on the Island of Mindanao, he and others were kidnapped on the Island of Palawan and subsequently brought to Mindanao.
Over my time on the Island of Mindanao, I have known many employees of USAid, and also of the US Embassy. They come to Mindanao regularly. I know of one previous US Ambassador who even brought his visiting American parents to Mindanao to vacation for a week while he was serving as US Ambassador to the Philippines. Travel warnings were in place at the time too. Why would a US diplomat bring his parents to a place where the US Government is warning Americans not to go? That makes no sense.
Frankly, I think that it’s time for the US Government to get serious about evaluating the real risks in Mindanao. Some places on the Island are certainly dangerous and should be avoided by the average tourist. Certainly not all of the Island, though. By spreading fear and ignorance as the US States Department has been doing, they are basically making their warning less effective for the places where it is indeed dangerous to go.
It’s time for the US State Department to get real and issue realistic travel warnings. The drivel that they have been issuing for the past decade or more is nothing more than nonsense.