Davao pushes for holding of scheduled ASEAN meetings despite martial law

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 1 June) – Davao City Tourism Office (CTO) head Generose Tecson urged the national organizing committee (NOC) of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to push through with the scheduled two big ASEAN meetings in the city next month despite the 60-day martial law.

Tecson made the appeal Thursday to the ASEAN-NOC as a show of “support and trust” to the city amid the recorded revenue losses in the tourism sector, which pegged at P20 million as of May 27, and gave an assurance that the city is ready to host the ASEAN meetings.

She told a press conference Thursday the two big ASEAN meetings, with a series of small meetings, will be attended by about 1,000 participants, including the top officials of the 10 member states of the ASEAN.

The ASEAN is composed of Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei, and Philippines. President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who hails from this city, chairs the 50th anniversary of ASEAN.

“To restore trust, I hope they will not do away with the events. Same with national agencies, if you have conventions here in the city, it’s okay to rebook or postpone to a later date. You push through your events here because you know how we are here. They should know from their local offices, support us here,” Tecson said.

She assured that the city has remained safe, with an the assurance from the security sector that they will ensure the city’s safety.

Tecson added that Davao’s state-of-the-art Public Safety and Security Command Center (PSSCC) and Central 911 can provide a major boost to ensure the safety of the participants.

She vowed the city government would work to further improve the security situation here.

The tourism official said there is no sign the city government will cancel the Kadayawan Festival in August this year.

“We’ve had meetings already. It is all systems go but this time we always had the security forces with us during meetings. We ask them how do they feel about this venue security-wise. We consult everything with them,” Tecson said.

She said the martial law will have slight impact on the number of tourist arrivals in the city but she is optimistic they can sustain the growth.

The city’s tourist arrivals surged to 459,104 for the first quarter of 2017, higher by 13 percent compared to the 405,576 arrivals recorded during the same period last year.

Records from the CTO showed that the bulk of the visitors were domestic tourists at 423,714, followed by foreign visitors at 29,889, and “balikbayans” at 5,501.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, following the clashes between the military and the Maute group.

Critics said that placing the island under military rule will be reminiscent of the martial law during the time of the late dictator, President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., that resulted in human rights abuses, in which President Duterte vowed he will not tolerate.

Davao City Police Office (DCPO) spokesperson Teresita Gaspan told a press conference on Wednesday that they encourage the public to call 911 to report any abuses of human rights under the 60-day martial law.

She assured they will immediately conduct an investigation and will file either an administrative or criminal case against any violators if they find any probable cause.

Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, martial law spokesperson for Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), said violators of human rights may be dismissed from service, depending on the severity of the violation.

He maintained that all their actions would be guided by the rule of law, necessity, and proportionality of response.

“Our 1987 Constitution has sufficient safeguards in place to ensure human rights are upheld and in accordance with the rule of law,” Gapay said.

He said martial law was declared to counter the terrorism perpetrated by the Maute Group in Marawi City.

Moro National Liberation Front Vice Chairman Abdul Aziz Olamit said President Duterte knows how to handle the situation here because he comes from Mindanao and vowed to throw support behind him in his fight against terrorism.

“I will not believe in the abuses because these are just mere propaganda. We support the martial law now,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)