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Travel Advisory

Philippines Rated Least Safe

May 26, 1996|EDWARD WRIGHT; Wright is a former assistant foreign editor at The Times. His column appears monthly.

Asia

Of all Asian countries, the Philippines is the least safe, according to a Hong Kong-based security consulting firm, as quoted by the Reuters news service. In awarding that dubious distinction, a study by the firm said that on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 the safest, the Philippines ranks 7.24. The study designated Singapore the safest country in Asia with a rating of 1.25, Japan the second safest and Indonesia the second most dangerous. The Philippine government denounced the report as misleading. Within weeks of its release, a British woman was clubbed to death by unknown assailants while vacationing at a popular resort on the Philippines' Mindoro Island. In the words of the State Department, "Crime is of serious concern in the Philippines."

Middle East

Only weeks after a similar but unrelated warning, the State Department advised that Americans traveling or living abroad "may wish to exercise greater than usual caution" in light of a New York federal court ruling allowing a leader of the militant group Hamas to be extradited to Israel. The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv said Americans in Israel should be aware of the potential danger of riding buses. Four suicide bombings in recent months, for which Hamas claimed responsibility, left 62 people dead in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the coastal town of Ashkelon; two of the bombs hit buses. Last month, the State Department issued a similar warning to Americans in the Middle East in response to threats by Hezbollah and other extremist groups.

Briefly . . .

Lebanon: Two American children visiting relatives were among the more than 100 people killed last month when Israeli shells fell on a U.N. base where Lebanese civilians had sought refuge, Reuters reported. The State Department's long-standing ban on travel to Lebanon remains in effect.

Britain: The deadly February series of IRA bombs in London apparently did little to dent tourism, Reuters says, with airlines and tourist sites as busy as ever. In two incidents last month, a bomb rocked a residential area of west London, but caused no injuries, and a bomb apparently misfired at the Hammersmith Bridge over the Thames.

Mexico: After 17 months of eruptions, scientists warn that a lava dome is building inside the Popocatepetl volcano, 39 miles southeast of Mexico City. If it tops the rim, it could melt glaciers and lead to heavy mudflows. On May 2, the bodies of five hikers were found near the rim, apparently victims of an eruption.

Montserrat: The Caribbean island's on-again, off-again volcano reawakened last month, spraying tons of ash into the air and forcing out residents who had tried to return to retrieve belongings that they had abandoned after an earlier eruption.

Poland: Following the bombing of a Shell service station in Warsaw that killed a police officer last month, the Polish division of Shell Oil has been threatened with more bombs. Extortion letters with anti-foreign and anti-Semitic wording, signed "GN 95," have demanded $2 million.

Hot spots: State Department travel warnings are in effect for Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burundi, Colombia, Guatemala, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan and Tajikistan.

The U.S. State Department offers recorded travel warnings and advisories at (202) 647-5225; the fax line is (202) 647-3000.

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