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‘Martial law extension in Mindanao won’thave adverse economic impact’

MANILA, Philippines — The one-year extension of military rule in Mindanao would not have a negative impact on the economy so long as it is well- managed and well-administered, ranking officials of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said yesterday.

“If we go by the experience in Marawi, it’s going to be neutral at worst,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said.

“What happened up to the end of the year was, it seems to be well-administered and well-managed. So our before and after analysis was more positive than negative,” he added.

NEDA undersecretary for policy and planning Rosemarie Edillon said that based on the assessment conducted in Mindanao after the end of the Marawi City siege, no significant effect in the local economies of other provinces was noted.

“It’s really difficult to project (martial law) impact so our basis really is when we had martial law in Mindanao. We look at it from the point of view of the goods market, tourism, construction, shipping. And from these indicators, we see that there was really no discernible impact,” she said.

Investment inflows into the region, according to Edillon, were not adversely affected by the placement of Mindanao under iron rule.

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“We also looked at the investments in Mindanao compared with Luzon and Visayas. So, looking at the period before martial law declaration and afterwards, there was no difference. There was even a slight uptick in the second quarter which was after the declaration,” she said.

“A lot of that is mainly because of Davao. It also goes to show that investors were actually able to isolate the Marawi crisis from the martial law declaration; it did not affect their decisions,” she added.

Edillon attributed this to the different way martial law was implemented this time around.

“It is important that the military maintained higher ground even as martial law is implemented,” she said.

Last Monday, President Duterte said he is not discounting the possibility of placing the entire country under military rule if security threats persist.

Pernia, however, said it is not likely to happen at this point and it has not been discussed at the Cabinet level.

Good, bad for business leaders

While some found martial law necessary, some of the country’s business leaders were also left scratching their heads after military rule in Mindanao was officially extended for another year.

 Leaders of the Makati Business Club (MBC) and the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) questioned the necessity of the move.

“A few months ago, the President declared Marawi liberated. What happened since then? While we generally understand the overall situation in Mindanao, is it really necessary to keep it under martial law?” ECCP president Guenter Taus said.

Taus pointed out that the continued implementation of martial law in Mindanao would even make it more difficult for international groups to join in helping rebuild Marawi.  

For MBC executive director Peter Perfecto, an extended martial law imposition creates a perception of instability among investors.

He said the private sector has already indicated to the government that it would be best to normalize the situation as soon as possible to contribute to longer-term business interests of the region.

To give businesses a better understanding of its decision, while also carefully considering the private sector’s concerns would be good for the government, according to Perfecto.

Instead of a blanket one-year extension, he said a quarterly assessment of the need for martial law could have been better and would serve as a middle ground for the public and private sectors.

“However, we in the private sector are willing to consider the recommendations of our security forces regarding the continuing threats that may still exist,” Perfecto said.

No effect on Mindanao tourism

Meanwhile, the martial law extension is not seen to have a significant impact on Mindanao’s tourism sector, industry stakeholders have said.

Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said that despite the declaration of martial law in Mindanao earlier this year, the country is poised to hit its target of 6.5 million foreign tourist arrivals for 2017.

“Maybe, if there was no martial law, it could’ve been higher. But still we (will) hit our targets,” she said.

Latest figures from the DOT show that foreign arrivals have breached the five million mark in October, an 11.54-percent rise from the same period last year.

“Mindanao is only part of the Philippines. We’re still promoting Mindanao in spite of martial law,” Teo said.

Tourism Assistant Secretary Eden David echoed Teo’s sentiments, saying the Department of Tourism (DOT) will not stop promoting Mindanao’s tourism products.

“In fact, the goal is to come up openly with whatever tourist offerings that we have,” David said. – With Richmond Mercurio, Catherine Talavera, Delon Porcalla

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