To ensure the peaceful conduct of the forthcoming plebiscite of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and midterm elections, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana held a dialogue with local leaders in Mindanao to defuse tension following the recent Cotabato bombing which left two people killed and 34 others injured.
“We are here to defuse the tension and we don’t want to escalate the conflict,” said Lorenzana, accompanied by Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., who met with top military, police commander and local leaders ahead of the BoL plebiscite and midterm elections in Camp Siongco, Maguindanao Friday.
Lorenzana said their primary purpose for the dialogue was to prevent speculation and “finger-pointing” on the bombing.
The dialogue was attended by Cotabato Mayor Frances Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, Maguindanao First District and Cotabato City Rep. Bai Sandra Sema, and Bangsamoro Islamic Forces Chief of Staff Sammy Gambar Al-Mansoor.
Meanwhile, Senator Nancy Binay urged the Department of Tourism to implement measures that would counter the anticipated fallout from advisories issued by the United Kingdom and Australia warning the countries’ nationals from traveling to Mindanao.
Binay, who heads the Senate’s Committee on Tourism, said the DoT should update Philippine travel guides to correct the negative impression of local destinations in Mindanao.
The New Year’s Eve bombing in Cotabato City prompted the travel warning.
She also urged the police and military to help ensure that accurate reports on the security situation in localities were provided to the embassies of other countries.
“Of course, we have to respect these countries’ prerogatives in issuing advisories out of concern for their citizens. There are times, though, that these advisories are unnecessary and sometimes exaggerated,” the senator said.
However, she conceded that the burden lay in the Philippine government in convincing tourists that the country was a safe environment and their welfare was a top priority.
Lorenzana’s visit was also highlighted by a security briefing spearheaded by the 6th Infantry Division led by Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, suggesting that the bombing had the signature of a local terror group.
Sobejana, earlier pointed to the Daulah Islamiya and the Islamic State-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as behind the bomb attack at the South Seas Mall.