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Peace Corps Volunteers in North Threatened, Ordered to Manila

December 21, 1995

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Peace Corps officials have ordered volunteers working in the northern Cordillera region back to Manila following reports of threats against them.

Joel Wallach and Gale Metcalf, co-directors of the Peace Corps in the Philippines, said in a memorandum that they had received information from ``highly credible sources which caused us to be concerned for the safety and security″ of the volunteers in the Cordillera.

A copy of the memorandum was obtained today by The Associated Press.

Wallach and Metcalf said they immediately ordered the volunteers in the northern mountain city of Baguio, 125 miles north of the capital, and in Ifugao province to return to Manila.

``We did not make this decision lightly,″ they said. ``However, nothing is more important to us than volunteer safety and security.″

The memorandum did not specify the threat.

U.S. Embassy spokesman James Nealon, who also speaks for the Peace Corps in Manila, refused to comment.

A volunteer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was one of at least eight from the region who were ordered to return to Manila.

He said U.S. Embassy and Peace Corps officials were ``very vague″ about where the threats came from.

He noted that the order to leave followed a series of raids on marijuana plantations in the region. Communist rebels operate in the area and they are supported by some of the marijuana planters, who are poor mountain peasants.

In June 1990, Peace Corps volunteer Timothy Swanson of Cheyenne, Wyo., was kidnapped by Communist rebels on central Negros Island, about one week before the U.S. Embassy recalled all the volunteers and sent them home because intelligence reports indicated rebels might try to kill or kidnap them.

The rebels claimed the Peace Corps program supported the government’s counterinsurgency campaign. Swanson was released unharmed in August after 1 1/2 months in captivity.

The Peace Corps program resumed in 1991.

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