ZAMBOANGA CITY Travel advices from at least four countries remind their citizens that Mindanao has damaged local destinations whose leaders have promoted potential investors in the region.
Mayor Bensar Estino of the city of Panglima Estino in Sulu said that the advices were a setback for him and other mayors of the city who had worked hard to restore the image of their province.
The United States, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom warned their citizens to "avoid all journeys to Mindanao, with the exception of the urban areas of Davao City, due to the serious threat of terrorist attacks and kidnappings."
Abduction, terror threats
The warning also specified the Sulu archipelago, the southern Suluzee and the waters south of Palawan due to threats of piracy and kidnappings, and Marawi City for terrorism and civil unrest.
"These opinions from big countries really push us backwards, not just two steps but many steps behind," Estino said.
He said that the mayors had invested a great deal in image promotion, hoping to clean up their cities (their bad image) and generate better visitor reviews & # 39; when the state of siege was declared in May 2017.
"Now even doctors and health professionals are afraid to set foot on some of the islands and these are people from Jolo," he said. "They feel something is wrong, especially if security has been tightened up."
Mayor of Zamboanga, Maria Isabelle Salazar, said the travel advice came from the declaration of martial law in Mindanao and the explosion of July 31 in Lamitan City, province of Basilan, where 11 people were killed.
But Salazar said that the advice had not prevented foreign visitors from coming. "No less than the Australian ambassador Amanda Gorely has been to Zamboanga City three times," she said.
Some projects funded by the United States Agency for International Development also continued, she added, adding that their foreign partners were "very supportive and generous in our campaigns".
According to the advice, terrorists and armed groups are allowed to "attack with little or no warning, aimed at tourist locations, markets, shopping centers and local government facilities."
Pedro Rufo Soliven, Regional Governor of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry on the Zamboanga peninsula, questioned the travel suggestion and said that most of the major cities in the world have not been spared terrorist attacks.
"All countries are not safe when it comes to terror attacks, but why are we chosen?" Said Soliven. "If we are not safe, why are we still here?"
On Tuesday, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, General Carlito Galvez Jr., said that he met security officials to ensure that nothing would happen that was similar to the explosion with Basilan. He said the blast was an isolated incident.
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