MOSCOW, Russia – The Philippines’ trade and tourism chiefs sought to downplay concerns that the imposition of martial law in Mindanao would set back their sectors.
In a news conference here on Wednesday, May 24, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez called the continuing attacks of the Maute group in Marawi, Lanao del Sur, an “isolated incident” that won’t stunt the country’s economic growth.
He said he would give this assurance to Russian businessmen during the Philippines-Russia business forum he was to address that day.
“We want to project that what happened yesterday was really an isolated incident,” he said.
“We want to project that the Philippines has this growth momentum; that that incident will not, in any way, counter the growth momentum we have,” he added.
It was the “isolated” situation in Marawi that convinced President Rodrigo Duterte to make good on his threat to declare martial law in Mindanao. The Chief Executive volunteered in a news briefing upon his arrival in Manila on Wednesday that he might consider expanding martial rule nationwide if the terror threat persist.
The Maute group held a hospital and other establishments in Marawi, driving Marawi residents to flee to nearby provinces.(READ: Thousands flee Marawi to escape clashes)
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said her office will continue promoting Philippine tourism despite the martial law declaration. (READ: LOOK: Proclamation No. 216)
She expressed confidence that tourists would “still come” despite martial rule in Mindanao, even after Duterte himself confirmed that the threat of the terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS) justified the declaration. (READ: Duterte says martial law due to ISIS threat)
“We will continue to promote the Philippines as a destination in spite of the martial law. I am confident tourists will still come to the country,” she said.
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano expressed confidence that Duterte’s martial law declaration will be short-lived, as the new Cabinet official counted on the military to deal with the problem swiftly.
“Of course the travel advisories will one way or another will [affect] us but they have pretty good intelligence which areas are safe,” said the country’s top diplomat.
“We’re all praying it will be a short period and the President said as soon as the problem is solved, he will lift it,” said Cayetano. – Rappler.com