Tourism gets immediate effect of terror threat

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

THE claim that Davao City is under a terrorist threat as relayed by President Benigno Aquino III to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte a few days ago raised hackles in the local community, with no less than former Press Secretary Jesus Dureza saying he smells “something fishy”.

Add to this the number of cancellations that tourism players have experienced.

Among others, it was learned from the Department of Tourism (DOT) Davao Region that the last leg for Cebu Pacific’s One for Juan awards night supposed to be held in the Island Garden City of Samal was cancelled soon after the news broke out.


Also cancelled was a USAID-funded program activity that DOT-Davao was working with.

When President Aquino admitted in a press conference in Pampanga Tuesday that the terrorist threat was just “raw information” passed on to him, which he passed on to the mayor, more hackles were raised although many preferred to remain anonymous, at the moment.

Only Dureza was willing to be identified although his was a very diplomatic answer: "I'm glad the President clarified early that the information is still ‘raw’. Hopefully, that will assuage the apprehensions of Davaoenos and somehow rectify the wrong inflicted on Davao City which definitely suffered from this seeming mishandling."

He later posted this same reply to his Facebook account.

First hit by the “raw information” that made it to the news were local hotels.

One hotel executive, who asked not to be identified said, “Since yesterday, we have received booking cancellations of about 25 room nights already or approximately P90,000 room revenues. Booking pickup has slowed down also compared to normal.”

Another hotel got a cancellation of 50 room nights equivalent to P420,000.

Raw info

“I passed on to Mayor Duterte a raw report... may I emphasize “raw”. I just wanted to make sure that he was given all of the pertinent information to adequately prepare Davao," President Aquino said after the Philippine Air Force's 67th anniversary celebration.

To this Dureza said, "I hope my good friend Sec Mar Roxas will make a return trip to Davao and make the necessary clarifications too. Having said that, let us all continue to be vigilant."

Roxas arrived in Davao last Sunday to meet with Duterte regarding the terror threat, saying that it was “real”.

The information passed on to Duterte by Aquino and the visit of Roxas was what made Dureza suspicious of the goings-on.

Dureza is among the few Mindanaoans who have served in key national positions under several administrations.

Last serving as Press Secretary of Malacañang in 2008 under the Arroyo Administration, he was Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, chaired the Mindanao Economic Development Council, the Government Peace Negotiating Panel for Talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and was Presidential Assistant for Mindanao. Much earlier, he was spokesman of President Fidel V. Ramos, and a member of the House of Representatives (1987-1989 and 1992-1995).

"It's not that I am already enamored with violence -- but this big hoopla about possible terror attacks in Davao City smells like a rotten, stale fish (more than ‘fishy’) to me," Dureza said in his Facebook account.

As of Tuesday, his Facebook status garnered 84 shares, 230 likes and 76 comments.

Not discreet

Dureza said he has suspicions on the news releases that are related to the terror threats-- the phone call of President Benigno Aquino III to Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, cautioning him of the threat, and the visit of Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas to preside over a highly publicized briefing.

"I learned from my long experience in Mindanao that real (or unreal) security threats were not handle this way… It was all discreetly done in whispers and behind closed door security briefings. I don’t know why the shift in tactics," he said.

The former press secretary said, “Assuming it's bombing guru Basit Usman who survived an assault somewhere and now escaping and seeking refuge in Davao, he will be the least threat as he is here to cool his heels or heal his wounds, if any.”

“If it's the usual mongering about some disrupters related to Ramadan, it's unfortunate bec(ause) it results to more racial/ethnic distrusts that we must, instead heal. If it's because of the peace process, there is still a reservoir full of hope at this time. So, why all this hoopla?” he added.

Roxas, during his visit, ordered all security forces in Mindanao to be on alert and to boost its security operations in the region.
He also directed the police to look out for members of threat groups in Mindanao who might carry out the attacks. (Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 03, 2014.

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