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Briton 'missing' in Philippines

Consular officials were last night investigating the apparent disappearance of a British businessman in the Philippines.

The man, named locally as 35-year-old David James Rowe, was last seen at a hotel in the southern city of Zamboanga on Thursday.

The alarm was raised by a businessman from Hong Kong who said he had arranged to meet him at Amil's Hotel in the city at around 5.30pm local time on his return from a trip to the capital, Manila.

They were due to discuss arrangements for tying up a business deal which had fallen through, he said.

The trader, who asked not to be named, said Mr Rowe had spoken to him by telephone a few hours earlier to agree the meeting but could not be contacted when he arrived.

He said his belongings were still in his hotel room although a mobile phone charger appeared to have gone.

"When I arrived I couldn't find him. At that moment I didn't have much information," he said.

"Around one o'clock in the morning we went to the police station to report that he was missing.

"We couldn't contact him by phone and he hadn't come back to the hotel and his stuff was here. All his clothing, all his bedding, his shaver is here, except the charger."

Despite fears that Westerners could be at risk of abduction from local extremists, the businessman said he did not believe Mr Rowe had been taken but may instead have made his way to the island of Cebu.

He claimed Mr Rowe had made inquiries with friends in recent days about how to get to Cebu by boat.

He said there had been reports of a foreigner being seen at a port, a seven-hour bus journey away, where boats left for Cebu.

The businessman said he had visited the local mayor's office this morning to register his opinion that Mr Rowe had not been abducted.

Local reports variously named Mr Rowe as James David Rowe or David James Rowe.

The Foreign Office confirmed that the reports were being investigated.

A spokeswoman said: "We are investigating reports of a missing British man in the Philippines."