The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began on May 27, will come to an end at sundown on Sunday, June 25. During this time, operations in the Philippines may come to a virtual standstill as Muslims gather to pray and celebrate with family and friends. While practices vary by area, Eid al-Fitr celebrations are likely to have an impact on many businesses, stock exchanges, and services (including administrative services) that will close or significantly reduce their hours of operation on Sunday evening and potentially into Monday. As this period is typically marked by increased travel, heavy road traffic after sundown along with other transportation disruptions (crowded airports, etc.) is to be anticipated.
Eid al-Fitr celebrates the conclusion of 30 days of dawn-to-sunset fasting and remains one of the most important dates on the Muslim calendar. Generally speaking, the month of Ramadan is historically marred by a significant increase in terrorist threats and as such there is a potential for attacks to be carried out during Eid celebrations. On Tuesday, June 20, Philippine aircraft and troops launched a renewed push against Islamist militants in the southern besieged city of Marawi (Mindanao), in a bid to clear the area by the weekend Eid festival. Authorities fear that rebel reinforcements could arrive in Marawi City after Eid al-Fitr.
While the Philippines is largely Catholic, the south is home to a sizable Muslim minority as well as extremist militant groups, such as Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), who are fighting for a separate Islamic state. Around 100 BIFF fighters were targeted by security forces after the militants planted makeshift bombs and committed a number of murders in recent months. The BIFF split from a major Muslim rebel group called the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2008 after the MILF opened peace negotiations with the government.
Individuals in the Philippines are advised not to eat, drink or smoke in public by day in Muslim-majority areas during the month of Ramadan to avoid drawing undue attention to themselves. Travelers are also advised to allow additional time for travel and to avoid any form of public demonstration or public gathering.
As a reminder, Philippine authorities advise against all travel to western Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago due to frequent terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgent groups. The Philipino government advise against all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao and to the south of Cebu province, up to and including the municipalities of Dalaguete and Badian.
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