COMMENTARY: Zambo, branded ‘dangerous city’ PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 27 October 2014 11:50

BY Atty. Vicente R. Solis


We were recently whacked by an article appearing on an internet site named “Destination Tips”, which dispenses travel advice to readers. The item, authored by Tessa Riley, is titled, “STAY AWAY: TOP DANGEROUS CITIES TO AVOID (FOR NOW)”.  It reads: “Zamboanga, a large urban center in the south of the Philippines, is affectionately hailed as ‘Asia’s Latin City’. Its culture is infused with Spanish influences and the official language, Chavacano, is a creole of traditional Spanish and Filipino. The area is ripe with waterfalls, forests, flower plantations, old forts, pioneer churches and geological formations that make it attractive to visitors. Up until recently, it was a regular stop on the local cruising circuit. However, this is one city you should seriously steer clear of for the time being. It has been the center of a battle between the Republic of the Philippines (RP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) since September 2013. There have been rocket attacks, heavy mortar fire, houses burned and hostage takings. Even an organized kidnapping for ransom plot targeting foreigners has been identified in the region. Clearly, heading to a city plagued with these issues is not recommended.”

Bundled with Zamboanga City are eleven other cities, namely, Cairo, Egypt; Bogota, Colombia; Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea; Guatemala, Guatemala; Cape Town, South Africa;

New Orleans, Louisiana; Acapulco, Mexico; Kiev, Ukraine; Caracas, Venezuela; Fukushima, Japan; and San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

Even a cursory examination of the quoted article, dated September 24, 2014, shows that it is predicated on an event which had started and ended one year ago, i.e., the September 2013 siege on a portion of our city by armed elements identified with the MNLF. However, it gives the wrong impression that the event is still continuing by alleging that the city “has been the center of a battle between the Republic of the Philippines (RP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) since September 2013.” Somebody should tell Ms. Riley that the “battle” had long ended, the gunmen either killed or charged and detained, rehabilitation efforts are underway, and that there are no more “rocket attacks, heavy mortar fire, houses burned and hostage takings.” In fact, we have just had a peaceful celebration of Fiesta Pilar.

I strongly suggest that the city mayor invite Ms. Riley to visit our city and see for herself why it isn’t one of the top most dangerous cities in the world, as rated in her internet article.  Sure, as an emerging urban center with a population creeping to the million mark, we have our share of violence and criminality. But, which part of the Philippines, or the world, for that matter, doesn’t? Even the Canadian parliament building was recently attacked by a terrorist. Does that make Ottawa one of the top dangerous cities in the world?

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OTRAS COSAS: For the record, it was Congressman Lobregat who fought hard in 2001 for the inclusion of a provision in RA 9054, or the amendatory law on the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which requires the national government to acquire the Cabatangan properties owned by ARMM (within three months from the holding of the plebiscite on August 14, 2001) and thereafter sell the same properties to the city government of Zamboanga. This provision appears as Section 1, Article XVIII (Transitory Provisions) of the law. However, and notwithstanding its mandatory character, this provision has remained in the freezer for the past thirteen years! If nothing is done by the national government  (with the prodding, of course, by our local officials) between now and the ratification of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which is coming sooner than later, all these properties will pass on to the Bangsamoro government.

It appears, however, that efforts are presently underway to beat the deadline, kicked off by  the October 14 council resolution, authored by Councilor Rommel Agan, requesting the mayor and our two congressional representatives to make immediate representations with the national government (meaning, President Aquino) towards the implementation of the law. Malacañang holds the key here. More on this next week.

While on Cabatangan, I am asking the city government why it chose (or allowed) the grandstand (Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex) and Cawa Cawa (RT Lim Boulevard) as temporary living sites for persons displaced by last year’s September siege? Was Cabatangan ever considered for this purpose?  Could not the city government have used its Cabatangan-owned property? Or, the ARMM properties by way of an arrangement with its regional governor?  It is no secret that the city government owns a 6.8-hectare property at Cabatangan (where the LTP building is located) purchased from the Wee Sit family by Congressman, then Mayor Lobregat. Why leave it idle?

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If everything proceeds as planned, a televised debate will be staged in the late morning of  November 10 in Manila between Vice President Binay and Senator Trillanes. It will be sponsored by the KBP. This will be a good opportunity for both camps to present their case and evidence to the entire nation on the alleged corruption charges against the vice president. If the senator makes his case, the veep’s ratings will slide further. If the vice president presents a credible defense, his ratings will again rise, making it harder for Secretary Roxas to catch up with the former on the road to the Presidential House.

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The Ateneo High School Class of 1964 is marking its golden jubilee this December. Arthur Lopez, President of the Philippine Hotel Federation, which brings together the country’s hotels, resorts, tourist inns, pension houses, and service apartments, is one of the high achievers of this class. He is the son of the late Armando Lopez, former publisher of the Zamboanga Times. (PO Box 333, Zamboanga City,