Coast Guard warns of new kidnap threats

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 January) — The Philippine Coast Guard on Wednesday said they have received reports of kidnapping threats by groups in Sulu directed at Samal Island and other areas in Mindanao like Surigao del Norte.

Speaking in Wednesday’s AFP-PNP press conference, PCG Southeastern Mindanao chief Commodore Joselito F. Dela Cruz said they will meet with the management of Holiday Oceanview Resort in Samal on Thursday morning to beef up security measures.

On Sept. 21 last year, suspected Abu Sayyaf members kidnapped three foreigners and a Filipina at the resort and took them to Sulu.

The victims were identified as Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56, a Norwegian; Canadian nationals John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50; and Hall’s Filipina partner Marites Flor.

Ridsdel is president of TVI Minerals Processing, with main office in Pasig City but with business interests in Mindanao. He is a member of the board of trustees for 2015-2016 of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc.

Captors demanded a P4-billion ransom for the four victims.

Despite the incident foreign visitors who own yachts continued to dock at the resort, dela Cruz noted.

He said they are planning to assign a patrol boat near the resort to ensure the safety of the foreign visitors.

He said the patrol team was stationed at Babak District but they are yet to move it to the northern part of Samal to monitor illegal fishing.

In the same press conference, Capt. Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division, denied reports the region has been infiltrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

The 10th ID covers 1,681 barangays in Davao Region, parts of Region 12, Trento in Agusan del Sur and Lingig in Surigao del Sur.

Col. Ricardo Nepomuceno, commander of 1003rd Brigade, said local terrorist groups who claimed allegiance to ISIS might have done so to sow fear among the locals, although this should not be taken lightly.

“They might have taken advantage of this,” he said.

He encouraged the public to share information on the possible presence of terrorist groups.

Davao del Norte Tourism Council president Araceli Ayuste said resorts in Samal suffered a 50-percent decrease in occupancy rate two weeks after the kidnapping incident.

Ayuste, who owns Punta del Sol Resort, previously cited she had 15 bookings cancelled, roughly equivalent to P75,000 in revenue losses.

She said this is far worse than during the lean period from July to October when the occupancy rate in most resorts was at least 70 percent.

She said it was an unusual drop and the biggest in the history of Samal tourism because no rebookings have been made unlike in the past when there were typhoons that hit Davao Region.

The worst typhoon that ever hit the region in recent memory was “Pablo” in December 2012. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)