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Philippines Travel Warning

Image caption Boracay is a popular beach destination for tourists

The beaches and restaurants of Boracay Island are usually bustling with tourists from around the world.

But this year, they are quieter than usual. A travel advisory issued by Beijing has caused a sharp fall in arrivals from China.

"We are worried and we are affected, " said Dionisio Salme, president of the Boracay Foundation Inc., the island's resorts' association.

Since the warning was issued on 12 September, Boracay has seen a steep drop in Chinese visitors. Numbers fell from 18, 479 in August to less than 7, 000 in September.

This trend continued into China's week-long public holiday in the first week of October, normally one of the peak travel seasons for Chinese tour groups.

According to Mr Salme, while bars and clubs on Boracay's main beach are still crowded with Filipinos and tourists from other countries, the large resorts which take in busloads of Chinese tourists are nearly empty.

Image caption The travel advisory has caused regional budget carriers like Cebu Pacific (pictured) to cancel flights

Cancelled flights

Airlines have been hit too. Cebu Pacific (CEB), a major Philippine budget carrier, cancelled 149 chartered flights scheduled between September and December 2014, with a loss of an estimated 24, 138 passengers.

AirAsia has also suspended flights from Beijing and Shanghai to Kalibo, the regional airport servicing Boracay. As the travel advisory hit its fourth week, it also reduced flights between Manila and Shanghai.

Jorenz Tanada, vice-president for corporate affairs for Cebu Pacific, remains cautiously optimistic. "CEB continues to operate scheduled commercial flights to and from mainland China, " he said, adding that the airline hoped the advisory would be "lifted at the soonest possible time".

Image caption Chinese and Philippine vessels have been engaged in tense stand-offs in the South China Sea region

Regional tensions

In its advisory, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs cited a "worsened security situation in the Philippines" that may see Chinese nationals targeted.

We're just hoping and praying that this can be resolved in the shortest period of timeDionisio Salme, Boracay Foundation Incorporated

It followed an alleged bomb plot against the Chinese embassy, the kidnapping of an 18-year-old man in the southern Philippines and general concern about criminal gangs.

The Philippine military has since dismissed the alleged bomb plot, noting that the man arrested was a fringe politician whose bombs were merely firecrackers, and the Chinese embassy has yet to determine if the kidnapped man was indeed a Chinese national.

Source: www.bbc.com
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