Envoy wants US to lift travel warning on Mindanao

PAGADIAN CITY -- United States Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. plans to recommend the lifting of the travel ban against Mindanao to the US State Department.

The US ambassador made the announcement during the 20th Mindanao Business Conference (MinBizCon) at the City Commercial Center here.

In a latest travel warning issued on June 14, 2011, the US State Department warns its citizens of the risks of terrorist activity in the Philippines, particularly in the Sulu Archipelago and on the island of Mindanao.

The June 14 advisory replaces the travel warning dated November 2, 2010, and updates specific regions of concern and reflects continuing threats due to terrorist and insurgent activities.

But Thomas said Thursday that the peace and order situation in Mindanao has significantly improved for the past months, the reason why he is planning to recommend the lifting of the travel warning.

He noted that Mindanao enjoys a good business climate, which serves as one of the barometers of his government in continuing the program implementation in this part of the country.

The US government had been implementing projects in Mindanao, particularly on concerns to education, development, prosperity, security and health.

Thomas told the businessmen on Thursday that Mindanao, which has vast natural resources, has big economic potential.

Around 200 business executives from all over Mindanao gathered here Thursday for this year's MinBizCon themed: "One. Global. Mindanao. Making Private Public Partnership work."

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) started the holding of area business conferences in 1992 to give more focus on regional economic and development objectives.

The MinBizCon is also the preferred platform to present the Mindanao Business Policy Agenda, a document covering policy issues on economic development requiring government action and private sector commitments.

Also on Thursday, Thomas inaugurated a P14-million crime laboratory facility situated inside Camp General Eduardo Batalla in Zamboanga City.

The crime laboratory, partly funded by the US government, is aimed to augment the capability of the police in solving crimes.

Mayor Celso Lobregat of Zamboanga City said the crime laboratory and all the state-of-the-art equipment and apparatus will significantly help the regional forensic investigators and law enforcers in solving crimes, especially where there are no eyewitnesses to positively identify the perpetrators.

Lobregat hoped that the new and improved Crime Laboratory will ensure the constant training of law enforcers and everyone involved on the fine points of forensic science that will result to what he termed as the Zamboanga Crime Scene Investigators.

Thomas described the building as one of the unique accomplishments of the Philippine and US governments, as he thanked the various police officials in the country and the region for their efforts in making sure that the project is realized.

He expressed confidence that with the enhanced capability, the police can make great strides in its mandated duties and responsibilities. (Sunnex)

Related story: UK updates travel warning in Mindanao

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