British Ambassador Daniel Pruce clarified Tuesday that the United Kingdom (UK) never advised its citizens against traveling to Palawan.
Pruce said the change they made last week was not about the lifting of a travel restriction to Palawan, but only “some adjustments pertaining to past references that were no longer up to date.”
“In relation to Palawan, let me be so crystal clear, the United Kingdom has never advised against traveling to Palawan. We have never advised against traveling to Palawan. The recent changes that we made to our travel advice in relation to Palawan were two adjustments concerning references in the past… regarding specific information about the risk of kidnap. The reason for the change that we made was just a factual change of removing these two references that were related to the risk of kidnapping,” said Pruce.
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Pruce said the UK government regularly makes such factual updates in their travel advice, pointing out that their review revealed that those references were no longer timely nor accurate.
It was on February 8 when the UK-based Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) posted on its website regarding the update on the removal of information on kidnapping in Palawan.
“As you look at our advice now, you’ll see that those references are no longer in the travel advice. It is a factual change. It was not a change in level because we’ve never advised against the travel to Palawan. I just want to be crystal clear on that. This is a topic of great interest which I, personally, my team in the embassy and Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) globally takes extremely seriously because the content of our travel advice is important. We make sure we get it right,” Pruce said.
While the kidnap information on Palawan was removed, FCO maintained their advice against “all travels” to western and central Mindanao, including the Sulu archipelago due to the recent recorded terrorist activities.
In 2017, the UK issued a travel alert to Palawan which it reiterated in 2018 after a kidnap-for-ransom group from Sulu threatened to take hold of foreigners from island and beach resorts.
But Pruce said he is sure of the fact that this never happened. Their citizens were never restricted to travel to Palawan even in 2017 when the Abu Sayyaf Group made a threat to kidnap foreign nationals visiting the Puerto Princesa Underground River.
“It (Palawan) is not under any travel ban and has not been under any travel ban. I was so sure that there was no travel ban. As far as I am aware, the adjustment that was made in 2017 was the insertion of these specific references to the risk of kidnapping, and that was based on the information that was current at that time. There was a second reference also concerning the risk of kidnapping. Both of those references were recently reviewed by us. Our conclusion was both of them were no longer relevant and therefore we removed last week,” said Pruce.
The Puerto Princesa City Tourism Office’ (CTO) annual report noted that UK nationals were part of its Top 5 visitor list in 2018.
Reacting to this, Pruce said the information only proves that they never issued any travel restriction to Palawan.
“Last year there were 15,000 who visited [Palawan], it was just fantastic. Based on that data we are the leading source of tourists from Europe in Palawan,” Pruce said.