‘Catastrophic to business’
Roel Pareño (The Philippine Star) - September 11, 2013 - 12:00am

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Skirmishes between government troops and gunmen belonging to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have taken an enormous toll on industries here, local business groups lamented yesterday.

Tiolo Soliven, president of the Zamboanga City Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ZCCCI), said that while the effect of the crisis on business has yet to be quantified, “it is catastrophic to say the least.”

He said the banking sector alone in the city transacts billions of pesos daily, based on Central Bank records.

The violence has forced the cancellation of flights and port operations here. Schools and shops also had to shut down.

The city government led by Mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar declared a curfew Monday night until 5 a.m. yesterday. Court hearings were also suspended yesterday, with the city’s Hall of Justice padlocked and secured by government troops, said court administrator Jose Midas Marquez.

Soliven said it won’t be long before the country feels the full effect of the business paralysis in the city, which is a traditional source of consumer goods as well as a market for raw materials such as rubber, copra, seaweeds in the region.

He said the crisis has badly hurt the “reputation and image of our city which we have labored to nurture as a peaceful investment hub.”

“The ‘Zoom in Zamboanga’ promotion meant to sell the city as a tourism hub just went down the drain. Such a waste of efforts and public funds,” he said.

Despite the setback, Soliven urged the business community to stay focused. “Tough times don't last, tough people do, we Zamboanguenos are made of sterner stuff – we will see this through.”

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo said he sees the crisis only slightly affecting investors’ confidence in the country.

“If it is just a short-term, fleeting event, then there won’t be any impact,” Guinigundo told reporters. “But it will always be a sore thumb if it lasts long,” he said.

Indefinite suspension

As the crisis entered its second day, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) announced an indefinite suspension of operations at the Zamboanga International Airport, effectively canceling all flights.

CAAP director general William Hotckiss said 24 flights of PAL Express and budget airline Cebu Pacific were cancelled due to the suspension of operations in the international airport.

In its advisory, Cebu Pacific said affected passengers may rebook their flights for travel within 30 days from the original departure date with no penalties.

The airline said affected passengers may also opt for a full refund.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., through Smart Communications Inc. and Sun Cellular, said it would set up free calling centers in Zamboanga City.

Smart and Sun Libreng Tawag stations have been set up at the Western Mindanao State University Gym where over 500 patients of the Zamboanga Medical Center had been transferred.

PSBank, a thrift bank subsidiary of the Metrobank Group, also announced the temporary closure of its three branches in Zamboanga City, and advised clients to transact through ATMs for the time being.

In a statement, the bank said the decision to shut down the branches was in compliance with “local government directive” as well as “to ensure the safety of our clients and employees.”

With Lawrence Agcaoili, Edu Punay, Kathleen Martin, Donnabelle Gatdula, Ted Torres, Rudy Santos

 

BANGKO SENTRAL CEBU PACIFIC CENTRAL BANK CITY CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY OF THE PHILIPPINES DONNABELLE GATDULA EDU PUNAY HALL OF JUSTICE JOSE MIDAS MARQUEZ ZAMBOANGA CITY
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