Influx of tourists seen amid terror threat

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Thursday, July 3, 2014


THE City Government of Davao has continued to receive series of calls after the ‘terror threat’ was hyped nationwide and became worse when the Australian government issued an advisory against travelling to the country.

The advisory cited Davao City as among areas that are placed on heightened alert.

But even as this developed, city officials believe the ‘damage’ that has been done to the city will not, in any way, affect the number of tourists who are expected to visit the city during the week-long Kadayawan sa Dabaw next month.

“Basically it (terror threat) has an effect. But we are very happy that kahit may effect siya, hindi naman siya nag result to cancellation. It has affected the industry because we had had several queries coming from outside of Davao even nationally,” City Tourism Operations Office (CTOO) officer-in-charge Lisette Marques told reporters in an interview after the I-Speak Forum at the City Hall yesterday.

She said: “Yung mga may planong pumunta dito tumawag sa amin, tumawag sa MSME facilitators, sa mga hotels and really trying to assess the situation.

“Talaga bang hindi secured diyan? Safe ba diyan? It has affected that ay and actually caught a fear from them,” she added.

In an update to its travel advisory on the Philippines, Australia said authorities in Davao City and other parts of Mindanao are on heightened alert due to an "unspecified security threat."

"We continue to strongly advise you not to travel to central and western Mindanao, including the Zamboanga Peninsula and Sulu Archipelago, due to the very high threat of terrorist attack, kidnapping, violent crime and violent clashes between armed groups. We continue to advise you to reconsider your need to travel to eastern Mindanao. We continue to advise you to exercise a high degree of caution overall in the Philippines," it said.

In the same advisory, Australia reiterated that its nationals "exercise a high degree of caution in the Philippines because of the high threat of terrorist attack."

“We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to eastern Mindanao (including the provinces of Bukidnon, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur) due to the very high levels of violent crime and the high threat of terrorist attack,” it said.

It also warned against a "high threat of kidnapping throughout the Philippines," with the threat "highest in the southern Philippines, including coastal and island tourist resorts and dive sites, including in remote locations in the Sulu Sea and along the Zamboanga Peninsula."

"The Australian Government’s long-standing policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers paying ransoms increases the risk of further kidnappings," it said.

Marques said the impact of the “terror threat”, before it was clarified as “raw and unverified” by no less than President Benigno Aquino III, to the tourism sector was huge.

“Travel advisories are issued by the government that we cannot control. The way they issued travel advisories, we feel that it is unfair. Although we understand it kasi nga gateway ang Davao, pag dumadaan dito, they always include Davao City as part of the places where they should not go,” Marques said.

“Pero yun na nga we cannot counter these advisories,” she said.

She said visiting several consular offices is not enough to lift the travel advisories.

“It’s really not enough kasi iba nga rin yung intel nila and we do not know what their intel offices receive and how they come up with these travel advisories,” she said.

She said they are hoping that even with the threat, the number of tourists who will visit the city next month for Kadayawan will be sustained.

Last year, she said the city welcomed more than 100,000 local and foreign tourists.

“It (terror threat) really made waves sa buong Pilipinas. But even if it’s raw and there’s no verification to that, then it should die down. And it should really verify that soon,” Marques said.

Councilor Al Ryan Alejandre on Wednesday also asked the national government to issue anew a statement recanting the threat it had created.

He said the national government should declare that Davao City is still safe.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 04, 2014.

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