“Business as usual” in SocSarGen, despite martial law

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 26 May) — It’s “business as usual” in this city this city and the neighboring provinces of Sarangani and South Cotabato despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s May 23 declaration of martial law in the entire Mindanao.

Mayor Ronnel Rivera said the operations of all city and national government agencies as well as business activities in the area remain normal.

He said the movements of civilians have not been curtailed while public utility vehicles like passenger buses and vans, and airline companies servicing the city airport continued with their regular operations.

“The city is still under civilian control so there’s no reason for our business sector to be worried. It’s business as usual here,” he said in a press conference.

The mayor said the city government and local authorities have not implemented a curfew in the area or any other related measure in connection with the martial law declaration, which was made by the President late Tuesday night in the wake of the terror attacks in Marawi City.

But he said the city police and the Army-led Joint Task Force GenSan have intensified their security operations and are on full alert to prevent possible spillover incidents.

He said security personnel are specifically monitoring people coming in and out of the city through checkpoints and regular patrols.

“There’s not sign or indication that what happened to Marawi will also happen to GenSan but we just want to be cautious here,” Rivera said.

“We want to protect our constituents, our city, especially local investments, that’s why we are really on top of the situation right now,” he added.

Rivera said the city government fully supports the declaration of martial law in the entire Mindanao as it was meant to protect other areas from possible attacks by local terror groups.

“This is actually good for us since it will not only help contain the problem there (Marawi) but also save the other neighboring provinces and cities,” he said.

In Sarangani, Governor Steve Chiongbian Solon said all security measures in his province are “strong and tight” and the overall situation in the area remains normal.

On Wednesday, the local government cancelled its three-day 12th Sarangani Bay Festival (SarBay) slated May 25 to 27 in support of the martial law declaration.

“Movements in terms of security have been mobilized to ensure the safety of the festival but it is on the moral ground that Sarangani Province cannot celebrate while our brothers in Marawi are distressed,” Solon said.

In 2016, organizers counted around 150,000 SarBay visitors and had expected the same number for the scrapped event hosted annually since 2006 at the famed white sand beaches of Gumasa in Glan town.

Solon said the move is a strong statement from the province “that we are in protest against acts of terrorism.”

In South Cotabato, Governor Daisy Avance-Fuentes said the overall security situation in the area remains stable.

There’s no general curfew being implemented in the province, except in Koronadal City that has an existing curfew for minors based on a local ordinance.

The governor said residents should not worry about the prevailing martial law as it mainly targets local terrorists and their sympathizers and not “law-abiding citizens.”

She allayed fears of possible abuses from military and police personnel assigned in the province during the 60-day martial law saying “they have proven to be responsible all these years.”

Fuentes said declaration of martial law in the entire Mindanao as a necessary move to address the worsening problem on terrorism.

“These groups have existing cells in parts of Mindanao, including here in Region 12 as what we’ve seen in the past and we need to root them out wherever they are as early as now,” she added. (MindaNews)