by Genalyn Kabiling and Mike Ortega Ligalig
It is still more fun and safe in the Philippines.
Malacañang gave this assurance to the public despite a flurry of travel advisories and trip cancellations to the country supposedly due to security concerns.
“We understand the concern of foreign governments over their nationals,” Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
“However, we assure everyone that the Philippines remains a safe place to work, to conduct business, or simply to have fun,” he added.
Abella said Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo has started to reach out to her counterparts in the region “to give assurances” about the country’s security situation.
The United States and other western nations earlier issued travel alerts to their citizens to some parts of the country due to threats of kidnapping and other terror threats. The travel warnings have reportedly prompted some tourists to cancel their bookings to the country.
Abella, however, assured that the Philippine National Police (PNP) has intensified security preparations for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit and related meetings in the country.
He noted that the ASEAN ministerial meeting pushed through as scheduled in Bohol this week with the police force “refocusing its efforts on the security preparations for the ASEAN.” He added that Task Group Bohol has been activated at the security system in the venue and other areas where the delegates will be visiting.
He said authorities have bolstered security measures in Palawan, another popular tourist destination in the country.
“While we urge continued mindfulness of one’s surroundings, it is still more fun in the Philippines,” Abella said.
TRAVEL TO BOHOL – GOV
Bohol Governor Edgar M. Chatto echoed the same assurance that it is safe to travel to the island province, saying that it is “business as usual” nine days after government troops engaged the Abu Sayyaf Group in Inabanga town.
Chatto said proper security measures have been implemented all over Bohol, but he pointed out that “vigilance is always the best antidote to fear.”
“The aim of the terrorist is to sow fear. What we need to do is not give in to that fear. We must fight it but it is not necessary to fire a bullet,” Chatto said.
The governor issued the statement even as the military continues its hot pursuit operation against the remaining members of the ASG who clashed with the combined forces of the military and the police early morning on April 11. Killed in the gun battle were four ASG bandits, three Philippine Army soldiers, a police officer and two civilians.