A recent tweet by journalist Raissa Robles that opening Mindanao to tourism will lead to an increase in kidnappings by the Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) and other thugs is out of context.
On June 2, Robles cited on Twitter a post by Twitter user @Pulitika2010 referring to an article published by the broadsheet Business Mirror titled “New Tourism Head: There’s Fun in ‘Unity'”.
Robles was commenting on the plan of the new tourism minister, Cristina Garcia-Frasco, to promote lesser known tourist destinations in the country.
The writer’s post caused a stir among various Mindanao stakeholders who protested the negative portrayal of the island as a safe haven for kidnappers.
Abu Sayyaf, which means “Keeper of the Sword” in Arabic, was founded by Afghan activist Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani with the goal of establishing an independent Islamic state in Mindanao after his return in 1991 to Basilan, one of the 27 provinces in the southern Philippines. .
Later, he was involved in terrorist attacks and kidnappings, including the kidnapping of 21 people, mostly foreigners, from a dive resort in Sipadan, Malaysia, and 20 foreign and local tourists from the Dos Palmas Beach resort in Palawan, which belongs to the island of Luzon, in early 2000s.
The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), which the United States classified as a foreign terrorist organization back in 1997, is known to operate in Basilan and Sulu, island provinces belonging to what is now known as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. (BARMM).
With a population of at least 4.4 million, BARMM is one of the six regions of Mindanao, the country’s second largest island group, with a total population of 26.25 million as of May 2020.
Two years ago, the Western Mindanao Command of the Philippine Armed Forces estimated the number of ASG fighters, who mainly operate in Basilan and Sulu, at 300 people. https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1091712
In a March 2022 report, the International Crisis Group, a non-profit advocating for peace, stated that ASG forces in Basilan and Sulu were weakened, though not yet defeated. https://www.crisisgroup.org/asia/south-east-asia/philippines/323-addressing-islamist-militancy-southern-philippines
Highlighting the government’s success against the ASG, Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana said that 1,544 Abu Sayyaf members had been neutralized by the military in the past six years under the Duterte administration, meaning they were either killed, arrested, or handed over to the authorities. https://mb.com.ph/2022/05/30/six-years-of-hits-and-misses-the-security-justice-peace-situation-under-duterte-administration/
Over the past few years, Abu Sayyaf, despite weakening, still managed to kidnap victims, including the September 2015 kidnapping of three…
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