I UNDERSTAND why the British government would issue an advisory to its nationals urging them not to travel to western and central Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago.
After all, some of these areas are affected by the ongoing conflict between Muslim separatists and the Philippine government.
This region is also home to members of the Abu Sayyaf, who use religion as a shield to hide their true intent. You know, kidnappings, extortion and what-not.
So yes, it would be prudent for British people and any other foreigner not to include this part of the country in their itinerary because they’d make easy targets. Common sense would have warned them to avoid these places at all cost in the first place.
In fact, most Filipinos don’t go there unless they really have to.
But why include southern Cebu, “up to and including the municipalities of Dalaguete and Badian,” in the advisory?
Was it because of Oger Omar Pelonio, a 69-year-old who is suspected of being an Abu Sayyaf member. The raid in his house in Barangay Ocaña, Carcar City last Thursday did yield several firearms and bomb-making materials.
The incident ruffled some feathers, not excluding Police Regional Office 7 Director Debold Sinas, who described Pelonio’s arrest as alarming.
But then Sinas also assured the public that security measures are in place in that part of the province and other parts of the region with the help of the military.
As for Pelonio, he continues to deny being a terrorist, citing his old age and his maladies as well as his stint in the army when he was younger.
The Hotel, Resort, and Restaurant Association of Cebu Inc. was quick to downplay the advisory.
Although Carlo Suarez, the group’s president, admitted that there have been cancellations, he pointed out that bookings remain high.
Because, come to think of it, how many British nationals do actually come to our shores?
Well, according to records of the Department of Tourism (DOT) 7, 49,484 British nationals visited the region last year.
Their numbers are way below the region’s top tourism market, which is Korea with 895,776 arrivals followed by China, 429,306; Japan, 408,566; United States, 219,796; Taiwan, 71,739; Australia, 71,724; Germany, 58,432; and France, 50,257. Canada rounds up the top 10 with 43,084 registered tourists.
I don’t have specific numbers for Cebu.
I’m not saying the recent travel advisory should be ignored because the last time I did that, several Abu Sayyaf members were discovered in Bohol and several people died. So that shut me up quickly.
But let’s face it, Dalaguete and Badian?