• Kyodo

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Police in the central Philippines province of Cebu have begun a search for a Japanese tourist who has been missing for a week and is feared kidnapped.

According to Superintendent Paquito Belandres of the Lapu-Lapu City police, Ryohei Sato failed to return Jan. 30 to the Buyong Hotel in Lapu-Lapu City, about 565 km south of Manila.

Sato, 70, is from Aizu Wakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture.

Belandres said police received reports that Sato called relatives in Japan on Thursday, asking them to pay a 6 million yen ransom.

According to investigators, Sato arrived in Cebu on Jan. 28 and checked into the seaside resort hotel on nearby Mactan Island, a popular holiday destination for Japanese tourists. He was scheduled to return to Japan on Feb. 1.

Hotel workers were the first to notice Sato’s disappearance. His belongings, including a passport and clothes, were found in his room.

According to police sources and witnesses, local police are currently searching for two men — one a Filipino and the other possibly a Japanese — who tried to obtain Sato’s belongings the day after he disappeared.

A Filipino identifying himself as Jerry Perez, accompanied by another man, asked for Sato’s belongings on Jan. 31 at the hotel, the sources said. The unidentified man may have been Japanese and is said to have been wearing a yellow polo shirt and black pants. The hotel has refused to comment.

Local police initially suspected that a criminal gang operating in the area was behind Sato’s disappearance. But leads, aside from the report of the strangers at the hotel, are scarce.

The incident could be the second kidnapping involving a Japanese national in about two weeks in the Philippines. A Japanese man held captive for at least five days by gunmen was freed in late January in the southern Philippines.

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