DAVAO CITY—Leaders of business organizations in Mindanao and foreign chambers described as timely and significant the lifting last week of a “national state of lawless violence” in Mindanao.
They said the lifting of the Presidential proclamation issued in 2016 would downgrade many international advisories against travel to Mindanao.
The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) announced on Monday that Malacañang has lifted Proclamation No. 55, which former President Rodrigo R. Duterte issued on September 3, 2016, to declare a “National Emergency on Account of Lawless Violence in Mindanao.”
Secretary Maria Belen S. Acosta, chief of MinDA, said President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. signed Proclamation 298 lifting Proclamation No. 55 on July 25.
Antonio Peralta, chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines-Southern Mindanao, said the move should
“rectify” the impression of foreigners and foreign investors of what Mindanao is all about.
Nilo Claudio, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Mindanao, said that while it seemed Proclamation No. 55 has already disappeared from the consciousness of many in Mindanao, “the fact the proclamation has been always considered by other nations in considering to travel or invest in the Philippines, always create an impression that there is war in Mindanao and should be avoided.”
“This creates a problem for business and tourism,” he pointed out.
Arturo Milan, vice president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Mindanao, said there have been many instances between 2016, when the proclamation was issued, and until this time, when the state of lawless violence continued to be factored by other nations in issuing advisories against travel to Mindanao.
“This lifting is welcome,” he said. He added it would also be timely to start inviting again foreign airlines to restart the operation of direct flights to Davao, like Xiamen Air of China.
Acosta said another airline, Royal Air Philippines, a Philippine-based budget airline, would be signing an agreement on Friday to start the Davao City-Hongkong flights.
She hoped the lifting of the proclamation would also start a “vigorous activity” in energy exploration and investment and water. “Iligan City, for example has a lot of water, and waterfalls but it needs investment to tap it and make it affordable for those in the locality.”
Lt. Gen. Greg Almerol, commander of the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command, said there would be no deployment or recalling of troops for now, adding that the current disposition of soldiers would be intended to prevent a resurgence of the communist-led insurgency.
“The troops would remain as is,” he said. “We have a lesson in the past, in 1992, that there was a resurgence of insurgency when the internal security operation was given to the police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines was positioned for external defense.”
He told the BusinessMirror that some changes might be done, like the conduct of checkpoints. “For cities and other areas that are now cleared of the insurgency, we may dismantle the checkpoints like what we did in Tagum City.”
Ex-President Duterte issued Proclamation No. 55 on September 3, 2016, the day after the Roxas Night Market was bombed by suspected armed followers of the breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The explosion killed 14 persons and wounded 70 others. In declaring the national emergency, Duterte immediately called on “the Armed Forces and the police to run this country in accordance with my specifications.”
He then said the country should expect the presence of more soldiers and police, but explained their objective is to identify the suspects. He, however, brushed aside fears that his declaration might be a precursor to the declaration of martial law that was being floated around due to his strong policies against crime.
“This is not martial law, but there will be security searches, you stop at the checkpoints and if you see soldiers flashing their flashlights, turn off your headlights, turn on the lights inside because I am authorizing them to conduct searches,” Duterte then said.
“Include the drugs. There is a crises in this country, in drugs, crime, there is lawless violence,” he added.
Image credits: Bernard Testa