MANILA - Incoming Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia-Frasco said Monday she is taking on the challenge of expanding tourism efforts in Mindanao in response to a journalist's warning of possible kidnapping incidents there.
"The Mindanao region has some of the most beautiful destinations that our country has," she said.
"Sadly, because of challenges in peace and order that are not of the people of Mindanao's own doing but of certain elements of our society whose nefarious intentions have gotten in the way of the full development of this region, perhaps this has resulted in very skewed views by certain quarters, including certain journalists, on the wisdom of developing tourism in Mindanao," she added.
Earlier this month, journalist Raissa Robles reacted to Frasco's plan to boost tourism in Mindanao by asking how the agency can ensure the safety of tourists amid the existence of terrorists there.
"Apparently, Frasco would like to open up Mindanao to tourism. Im sure the extremist Abu Sayyaf and other bandits would be pleased by the prospects of so many potential kidnap victims," Robles wrote on Twitter.
"Way to go, Frasco. Prep yourself for ransom negotiations. ASG might ask you to nego personally," she added.
Robles' statement drew negative reactions from many Mindanawons.
"I do not wish to offend people residing in Mindanao. But I just want DoT officials to be aware that opening up "Mindanao" to tourism is something they should cautiously approach. When tourists come to PH, we are responsible for their safety," she said in another tweet.
Frasco said she would take on the challenge and prove that Mindanao deserves recognition.
"But I've never been one to back off from a challenge, and rather, I take her criticism as an opportunity to work with the people of Mindanao to prove to the world that they are fully deserving of the attention that they have so needed and deserve. And we will do that," said the incoming DOT chief who hails from Cebu province.
"So I look forward to the day for her to change her tune, not by my words, but by my actions. I intend to be judged not by my words but by my work. And we will work hard to help Mindanao rise to its full potential.“
Frasco earlier said she wants every local government unit, including those from Mindanao, to have equal opportunity to promote their tourist destinations.
Sec. Maria Belen Acosta, chairperson of the Mindanao Development Authority, had said "there is a need for a concerted effort to bolster Mindanao's peace and development initiatives."
"It would help to highlight instead what is amazing and promising about Mindanao rather than get stuck in the old construct of 'it’s bad news that sells'," she said in a statement days after Robles' tweets.
"While a lot of peace and development initiatives have already manifested on the ground, the mindset and perspective of what Mindanao is all about still needs a lot of proper understanding and appreciation. Especially those who are not residents of this island or those who have not experienced the wonderful sites and experiences Mindanao offers."