By: Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo - | May 27,2017 - 11:38 PM
Local tourists chase the remaining days of summer at a public beach in Anda, Bohol, which is popular for its fine white sand.  (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO

Local tourists chase the remaining days of summer at a public beach in Anda, Bohol, which is popular for its fine white sand.

Travel agencies, agents withdraw bookings due to Marawi siege

Hotels and resorts are bearing the brunt of the siege in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, that prompted President Duterte to put the entire Mindanao under martial law.

Travel agencies and online travel agents have canceled reservations, citing concerns in the country’s peace and order situation as the main reason of foregoing plans to travel in the Philippines.

As of May 27, Be Grand Resort Bohol had a total of 53 room cancellations equivalent to 94 nights for reservations made in the months of May and June, according to Ronalaine Fernandez-Sato, area communications manager of Be Resorts in Mactan and Bohol.

Cebu Parklane International Hotel General Manager Cenelyn Manguilimotan said the hotel has also received cancellations although she could not yet give specific figures.

“It is already a series of events that happened one after another starting with the Abu Sayyaf in Bohol. We were starting to recover and then the Marawi siege happened and then the declaration of martial law. We are just hoping that eventually the situation will be better,” said Manguilimotan, past president of Hotels, Resorts and Restaurants Association of Cebu.

At the time when government troopers were hunting down Abu Sayyaf members who tried to enter Bohol, Manguilimotan said they lost 90 rooms to cancellations.

The members of the bandit group were later killed in separate operations that lasted more than a month since they entered Barangay Napo in Inabanga town, Bohol, on April 10.

The cancellations are often made by travel agencies and tour groups composed of Koreans, Japanese and Chinese.

More cancellations are expected to happen as the United Kingdom has advised citizens to avoid travels in the western and central parts of Mindanao, particularly Marawi City, and only consider traveling if it is necessary.

In the advisory released on Saturday, it also mentioned lack of clarity on the implications of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office continue to advise against all travel to western and parts of central Mindanao including Marawi City; and against all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao,” the advisory said.

For citizens already in Marawi City, they were told to stay indoors, monitor the news and follow the advice of Philippine authorities in light of clashes between government forces and militants.

Fighting continues in Marawi City as government forces battle to retake control of the city from Muslim militants who have lain siege for nearly a week Saturday.

At least 44 people had been killed including 31 Maute members and 11 soldiers in the fighting that started on Tuesday.

Manguilimotan said they try to assure guests that Marawi is far from Cebu and the declaration of martial law has contained the problem.

But even a thorough explanation of geography is not enough to appease international tourists, said former Department of Tourism Central Visayas (DOT-7) director Patria Aurora “Dawnie” Roa.

“Any news on war in Mindanao is viewed in the international field as war in the Philippines. In my 17 years as regional director (of DOT-7), whenever there is news on clashes in Sulu or Basilan, which are not even regular destinations, will always result to (sic) cancellations,” she said.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement of the possibility of extending martial law in the Visayas without any justification will do more harm than good, said Gordon Alan “Dondi” Joseph, president of Cebu Business Club.

“Will the talk of declaring martial law affect business? Of course, starting with tourists and foreign investors. It gives the impression that we are unstable, politically immature or incapable of solving our local problems because of weak institutions,” said Joseph, also Netherlands Honorary Consul in Cebu.

Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, director of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), assured the public that Cebu and the rest of Central Visayas are safe.

“Our security system together with our AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) counterparts is in place and there is no specific threat in relation to terrorism despite the prevailing situation in Mindanao,” he said in a text message to CDN.

Taliño, however, urged the people to be always vigilant, saying terrorism is a concern of all places throughout the world.

“If you notice suspicious-looking persons or unusual activity, please report it to the authorities,” he said.

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TAGS: agencies, agents, bookings, CANCELED, marawi, RESERVATIONS, siege, Travel, WITHDRAW

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