Mindanao still a safe destination: DOT exec

Mindanao remains a safe place to visit, a tourism official said on Wednesday.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Assistant Secretary Roberto Alabado III made this remark after President Rodrigo R. Duterte warned of “very dangerous times ahead” particularly in Sulu and Basilan Islands.

Alabado said the agency will always abide with the President, however, noted that there were several areas in Mindanao that are not “troubled”.

“Regional offices (in Mindanao) are doing good efforts introducing all of the good parts of what the destinations have to offer,” Alabado said in an economic briefing in Malacañan Palace.

“If you go to Zamboanga, I don’t think it’s a troubled area. I would encourage our Filipino tourists to visit Zamboanga and you will be pleasantly surprised how the pink beach of Santa Cruz island is,” he added.

Doubled efforts

Alabado, meanwhile, emphasized that regional offices are also doubling efforts to change the perception of a Mindanao that has been under martial rule since the May 2017 Marawi siege.

“(It’s) doubled because we are working on changing a perception. That’s why we are here to show you what is actually real on the ground,” Alabado said.

“What we’re looking at right now, there are some safe places but there are places in Mindanao where the (travel) advisories are better,” he added.

Alabado said domestic tourism is going very well with hotels in Davao City always “fully-booked” which is a good indicator that tourists continue to visit Mindanao.

“It’s full of attractions and destinations now we would like all Filipinos to come visit Mindanao and see another culture,” Alabado said.

More routes

There are also measures being taken to fan interest of investors in establishing direct routes to the Davao International Airport, the international gateway to Mindanao.

”We see that there’s a renewed interest in establishing direct routes to our international gateway in Mindanao and the Department of Tourism Routes Development Team is busy talking to these carriers to consider Davao International Airport as one of the destinations,” Alabado said.

“They are busy talking to all of these chartered flights to establish more routes going to Mindanao. That would be a key action needed to have more people visit Mindanao,” he added.

At present, there are four international connections to Davao including Singapore-Davao (Silkair), Jinjiang-Davao (XiamenAIr), Hong-Kong Davao (Cathay Dragon), and Qatar-Davao (Qatar Airways).

Davao is known for various tourist attractions including the Mt. Apo, the Philippine Eagle Center, and the Crocodile Park, among others. (PNA)