THE parents of student-journalists who will participate in this year’s National Schools Press Conference (NSPC) are urging the Department of Education (DepEd) to transfer the venue of the event away from Mindanao citing security concerns.

One of the parents who declined to be named said he would not allow his son, a second year student in the National Capital Region (NCR) who won the regional elimination in news writing last year, to attend the NSPC which is scheduled to be held on February 22 to 26 at Tagum City, Davao Del Norte.

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“We are worried for our children that the NSPC will be held there … anyone would be worried too because of what happened,” the parent said, adding that DepEd should move the venue to a “safer” place in Luzon or the Visayas to assuage their concerns.

He said the DepEd should ensure that all the concerns, especially about security should be fully addressed before they will allow their children to participate.

“Of course, we are just being careful,” he said, adding that his concern is also shared by other parents of campus journalists he has talked to in recent days.

Incidents such as the November 23 massacre of 57 people, including 31 journalists in Maguindanao by gunmen loyal to the powerful Ampatuan clan, and the kidnappings of teachers and students have made them apprehensive about the safety of their children and the overall peace and order situation in the region.

Aside from the massacre, gunmen reportedly belonging to the Abu Sayyaf group have abducted Dr. Orlando Fajardo, vice president of the Basilan State College last month, though he was released after week in captivity.

Armed men reportedly composed of former paramilitary members also attacked a school in Prosperidad, Agusan Del Sur last December 10 and took more than 70 students, teachers and parents hostage. They were later released unharmed following a successful negotiation with the local authorities.

In November, Sulu Principal Gabriel Canizarez was beheaded by his abductors reportedly belonging to the Abu Sayyaf group after his family failed to pay the ransom demand of the suspects.

His abduction came less than a month after the safe release of the kidnapped Zamboanga, Sibugay teachers namely Jocelyn Enriquez, 43, Noemi Mandi, 38, and Jocelyn Inion, 39 after more than six months in captivity.

In January, three public school teachers -- Rachel Mayonada, Freires Quizon and Jeanette de los Reyes -- were kidnapped by bandits in Zamboanga City. They were subsequently released to their families.

But Tagum City, a first class city in Davao Del Norte’s 1st District has largely escaped the violence that has gripped portion of the resource-rich region for many years now.

The city was even cited in 2005 by the Philippine Cities Competitive Ranking Project as one of the 20 most viable and business competitive cities in the country.

The DepEd said the annual event is expected to draw a thousand campus journalists from public and private elementary and secondary schools all over the country.

Individual and group writing contests in English and Filipino will carry the event’s theme: "Campus Journalism as a Catalyst for Change: Achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.”

The group contest comprise of five categories including editorial, feature, literary, news and sports. There will also be competitions in copy reading, headline writing, photo journalism, editorial cartooning, scriptwriting and radio broadcasting.

This year’s conference, according to DepEd NSPC 2010 overall chair Dr. Lolita Andrada, will also feature digital journalism contest for the first time. (AH/Sunnex)