BY ROGER M. BALANZA
Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said he was not disappointed that organizers of the Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) 2015 had not included Davao City among cities that would host minor events of the 21-nation international summit.
APEC 2015 is the biggest international summit that would be hosted by the Philippines. Activities for the summit are spread from December 2014 to December 2015, with the major events to be held in Manila in December next year. Side events during the year would be hosted by selected cities.
I have no problem. I am not disappointed, said Duterte in the August 6 edition of his television program Gikan sa Masa Para sa Masa on ABS/CBN, following reports that Davao City is not in the list of the selected cities.
Duterte said that he was in fact relieved that a load was taken off his shoulders with the non-inclusion of Davao City.
Hosting the APEC events would be a security and financial headache, he said.
A convention of international significance like APEC would need more police and military security for the foreign delegates, he said in the program co-hosted by lawyer Geraldine Chiu.
Duterte said he was clueless as to the reason behind the exclusion of the city from the short-list that would host the side meetings.
APEC organizers earlier had visited Davao City several times to assess its capacity to host the side events.
If you skip Davao, well and good. I would have more time with the more important job of keeping Davao City safe and comfortable, he said.
Davao City was initially in the shortlist of cities and provinces that would host the minor meetings. Duterte said he was ready to host the events.
The bad news about the non-inclusion of Davao City in the listing was carried by a July 22 memorandum issued by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa.
Threats from Mindanao terrorist groups may have factored in the decision by organizers of the Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) 2015 not to include Davao City in its list of host cities for minor events of the 21-nation economic conference.
Davao City is the only Mindanao City in the short-list of the organizers.
Malacanang Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa has issued a memorandum identifying cities and provinces that would host the side events. Davao City was not in the list in the July 22 memorandum.
In his television program on ABS/CBN on Sunday, Duterte said he was clueless about the reason why Davao City was dropped.
But Davao City being located in Mindanao could be a reason, he said.
He had earlier said, before the Ochoa memorandum, that the city was prepared to host side events of the APEC.
Also earlier, Duterte expressed apprehension the “fear factor” involving threats from Mindanao terrorists on foreign delegates could influence organizers’ decision on Davao City.
Duterte, before the July 22 memorandum of Ochoa, attended a meeting of APEC organizers held in Manila that discussed security measures including safety of foreign delegates.
Interviewed by media on the Manila meeting, Duterte hinted that ‘Mindanao terrorists’ could factor in the choice of areas for the APEC side events.
He said Davao is hobbled by its image being located in Mindanao.
Terrorist groups sporadically launch violent attacks in Mindanao urban centers and government troops, prompting countries like the US, Canada and Australia to regularly issue travel advisories warning their citizens against traveling to Mindanao.
Mindanao is home to the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, the Philippine cell of the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah which is linked to the international terror group al Qaeda. The Abu Sayyaf is behind the spate of bombings and kidnappings in Mindanao.
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has signed a peace pact with the Philippine government, continues to fight government forces in Central Mindanao despite the peace agreement that would create an autonomous Bangsamoro homeland in Mindanao.
In addition, the Davao Region has an active communist insurgency in the rabidly anti-American New People’s Army (NPA). The US is a member of APEC.
Other than the NPA, there is a strong anti-American sentiment in Mindanao, fanned by leftist militant groups over the Balikatan, a joint US-Philippines military exercise.
Duterte said the APEC organizers during the Manila meeting factored “Mindanao terrorism” and its threat to delegates as they assessed cities that would host the side events.
Nevertheless, Duterte told media that Davao City is ready to host APEC events assuring that the city is “safe for everybody.”
In wake of the bad news brought by the Ochoa memorandum, Department of Tourism Undersecretary Arturo Boncato Jr. said the list of the cities that would host the side events contained in the Ochoa memorandum “is not yet final.”
Boncato, who is from Davao City, said the city could still host ‘”smaller meetings” of the APEC during the year-long event. ROGER M. BALANZA