Davao business registrations double despite martial law

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 25 July) – Business registrations in Davao City have grown more than double in the second quarter of 2017 despite the implementation of martial law in Mindanao, an investment official said.

Part of downtown Davao City. MindaNews file photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

In an interview Tuesday, Davao City Investment Promotions Center (DCPIC) head Lemuel Ortonio said the city registered around 4,600 business registrations in the second quarter of 2017, a two-fold increase from a period a year ago with 2,110 businesses registered and renewed.

For the first quarter of the year, he said they reported a total of 41,051 new and existing businesses compared to 36,434 of the same period last year.

Citing the latest figures, Ortonio claimed the impact of the martial law on the economy of Davao, the hometown of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, is almost negligible, claiming that his office has been continuously receiving quite a number of inquiries from interested investors.

He said the increase can be attributed to the “ease of doing business” here.

“There is ease of doing business in the city, there are measures to make it easier to open business here. And then with martial law comes with heightened security and it’s possible our investors have seen their investments are safe here,” Ortonio said.

Duterte declared a 60-day martial law in Mindanao on May 23, shortly after clashes broke out between government forces and the Maute Group in Marawi City. But on July 22, supposedly the last day of martial law and suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus was to end, Congress approved Duterte’s request for extension until December 31, 2017.

“I declared Martial Law in Mindanao because I believed that that was the fastest way to quell the rebellion at the least cost of lives and properties. At the same time, the government would be adequately equipped with the constitutional tool not only to prevent the escape of rebels who can easily mingle and pretend to be civilian evacuees only to re-group in another place to fight another day, but also to prevent them from spreading their gospel of hate and violence in the rest of Mindanao,” Duterte said during his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City on Monday.

He explained that martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus enable the “military to arrest, detain and question suspected members and sympathizers of the rebellion similar to what happened to the parents of the Maute brothers.”

The President also vowed to support the police and the military in the implementation of martial law.

“As president, I am reiterating my unwavering support and commitment to the soldiers of our Armed Forces and the members of our police force – those who are on the ground and in the battlefields and those who are risking their lives for our country and our democracy. I have your backs. To those who oppose and think that all these efforts are out of order, I hold myself – me and me alone should be responsible,” he said.

Reacting to his statements, Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. president Ronald Go said the underlying message of the SONA was the President’s desire to all Filipinos “to embrace the move for change and this being basically his first year I think all of us should give him a chance.”

“The President talked about several topics at length which he obviously felt very strongly about. Among these were drugs, corruption, security and mining. I think at the core of all these issues was change or the lack thereof. I sense that the President is frustrated with the slow pace in implementing the changes he hopes to come about compared to what he was used to as mayor,” he said.

Last July 18, City Tourism Office head Generose Tecson said the extension of martial law until December 31 will certainly have an effect on the tourism sector here but security is more important.

She said the embassies will keep their travel advisories against Mindanao.

But Tecson said security is a “primordial concern” of the city government in light of the threat of terrorism and extremism in Mindanao.

She said the city’s security forces are part of the executive committee tasked to prepare for the Kadayawan Festival next month.

“In preparation for the Kadayawan Festival, our security forces are part of the [executive committee] so that they can give their inputs with regards the plans and venues for the various activities,” Tecson said.

“What we can do is, as Davaoeños we should help by getting the word out that it is safe and secure here in Davao, but still we are all vigilant,” she added.

Militant groups have called on Duterte to reconsider his earlier decision to abandon the peace negotiation with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and lift the extension of martial law in Mindanao.

Karapatan Southern-Mindanao spokesperson Jay Apiag insisted that there is no better way for the two parties, referring to the government and the NDFP, to fix societal concerns than to go back to the negotiating table.

Under the first year of Duterte administration, Apiag also reported that 37 people were killed in Southern Mindanao compared to only 52 victims of political killings during the term of former President Benigno S. Aquino III.

“His recent pronouncements on the extension of martial law and undermining the peace talks between the NDFP and GRP is clear manifestation of state abandonment of the roughly 16 million voters who gambled their hopes and fate to Duterte,” he said.

Apiag added that they demand Duterte to “be true to his promise of pushing for genuine land reform, putting an end to contractualization, national industrialization, free and accessible social services to all and other people’s agenda he promised to the Filipino people.”

Several rallyists took to the streets early Monday starting at 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. from Assumption College, to Magsaysay Park, then to Freedom Park where they held their own People’s SONA.

“We presented the long list of political killings in the region through display of coffins depicting the 37 cases of political killings in Southern Mindanao under one year of Duterte administration,” Apiag said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)