RP  STILL  A  GOOD  TOURIST  DESTINATION -  US  DAILY

WASHINGTON, February 15, 2005 (STAR) By Jose Katigbak (STAR Washington Bureau) -  US tourists are being urged not to abandon the Philippines as a tourist destination despite the "jarring realities" of kidnappings and terrorism.

Tourists should keep an eye out for threats such as "kidnappings, communist insurgents, petty crime and typhoons" but should not give up on the Philippines as a destination, The Washington Post reported in an article in the travel section of its Sunday edition.

The article by staff writer Andrea Sachs said State Department advisories to US citizens to exercise caution and maintain their security awareness in the Philippines were more of a "be careful" than a "donít go" warning.

In a reply to a request for information regarding packages or group trips to the Philippines, the article summed up the situation with the headline "Philippines: Good to Go."

It quoted Rob Maxwell, an Asia regional analyst for iJet Travel Risk Management, as saying the Philippines has secure tourist zones.

"Right now, thereís no real reason to avoid the country altogether," he said. "Itís just about being smart about where youíre going."

Based in Maryland, iJet is a privately-held company that assesses security risks for travelers worldwide. Sachs advises US tourists to skip the Mindanao region in the south, as well as rural areas, even those around Manila, and to avoid overland travel. "Resorts, however, are safe, especially those that cater to divers," she said.

Sachs also advises tourists to let a travel agent organize their trip. "The Philippines Department of Tourism lists at www.wowphilippines.com.ph accredited travel agencies and their packages and tours, which cover lodging, attractions, white-water rafting and sailing outings, island visits and more," she said. "You should also consider an American tour company. It will make trip planning easier and, in case of emergency, itís good to have a US contact."


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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