US Secretary of State John Kerry announced yesterday that he was postponing a visit to the Philippines due to a tropical storm, in the latest setback to a US effort to engage Asia.
“Because of the judgement of our pilots ... and the approaching typhoon, we are going to postpone the trip that I was going to make to the Philippines,” Kerry told reporters on the sidelines of an Asia summit in Brunei. “I’m sorry not to be there in the next day or so, but the good news is I am absolutely committed to returning in a month or so. I’m coming back to the region and I look forward to visiting ... our friends in the Philippines.”
The cancelation came after the US warned its citizens of a “series of credible security threats” in the restive southern region of the Philippines, where a Muslim insurgency has raged for decades.
“Individuals associated with known extremist and insurgent groups are believed to have been conducting surveillance on a number of public locations in these areas, as possible targets of interest,” the US embassy in Manila said in an emergency message.
These include “high-profile sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas and other destinations, whether frequented by foreigners or locals,” it said. “Extremists may elect to use conventional or non-conventional weapons, and target both official and private interests.”
As a result, the embassy said it was restricting travel by US government staff to certain parts of the southern region of Mindanao.
The embassy warning named Davao, Mindanao’s largest city, and four Mindanao provinces, including areas not known as hotbeds of insurgency.
Tens of thousands of Americans live in the Philippines, a former US colony.
Muslim rebels who are waging a decades-long rebellion as well as other armed gangs are known to operate in some parts of the south, where bombings have been ever-present dangers.