Davao business leaders want Mindanao martial law lifted sooner rather than later

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DAVAO CITY — The business sector here expressed support to the extension of the martial law period as approved by Congress Saturday, but leaders are hoping that it could be lifted earlier than the end-of-year deadline.

“We have so much lawlessness threatening us in Mindanao, and we believe the President is doing his best to ensure that the people of Mindanao are protected,” Arturo M. Milan, trustee of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (DCCCII), told BusinessWorld in a telephone interview yesterday.

However, Mr. Milan said the sooner that martial law is lifted, “the better.”

Ronald Anthony C. Go, DCCCII president, told the media that the local business community is putting its full trust in President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who served as mayor of Davao City for several terms over a period of two decades.

“Obviously, (the President) has a plan to address our peace and order concerns. He has asked us to trust him and with what he has done for the country thus far, I think we should,” said Mr. Go, a former soldier and pilot.

“We realize that he is privy to information which we as regular citizens are not, he sees the big picture and there are some things he feels must be put into place before martial law can be lifted,” he added.

At the same time, Mr. Go expressed optimism that the siege by religious extremists in Marawi City, which prompted the declaration of martial law on May 23, could be fully addressed soon.

“It is our prayer that what unfolds should be accomplished expeditiously so that we can move on with the task of nation building… Maybe we can say we support the President, but if there is a possibility that martial law extension is for a shorter period of time rather than prolong it, it would also help the tourism industry,” he said.

Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Deputy Executive Director Romeo M. Montenegro, for his part, said extending the martial law is a “firm action forward” by government in addressing the Marawi crisis and its impact on Mindanao.

“It would buoy up investor confidence in Mindanao,” he said.

Meanwhile, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of the President, said the local government will not ask for an exemption from the martial law declaration despite its impact on the city, particularly on the tourism sector.

Davao City is one of the main gateways to Mindanao and its airport is the only one in the south that has international flights.

“We have not initiated any request for the exclusion of Davao City from martial law… The more security we have on the streets, the safer for you to put your money and investments in Davao City,” Ms. Carpio said. — Carmelito Q. Francisco, Carmencita A. Carillo and Maya M. Padillo