Bishop: It's More Fun If There's Peace
02-03-2012, 10:18 PM
Bishop: It's More Fun If There's Peace
A Catholic prelate Friday said that “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” if only there is peace.
Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros issued the statement in the wake of kidnapping incidents in Mindanao.
“Many tourists are attracted to our country because as they say, ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines’ but we lack peace,” Oliveros said over Church-run Radyo Veritas Friday, citing the Mindanao kidnapping as one glaring example.
Last February 1, two European tourists and local guide Ivan Sarenas of Davao were abducted by five armed men in Tawi-Tawi. The three wildlife photographers were on a bird-watching expedition when they were seized while on board a pump boat.
Sarenas, however, was able to escape by jumping off the speeding pump boat.
Oliveros, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Commission on Bioethics, said the kidnappings do not reflect well on the image of the country.
“There have been many jokes regarding the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines!” (slogan) because of what is happening,” said Oliveros.
“Let us strive to live up to our tourism slogan by giving a deeper meaning to the ‘It’s More Fun’. It should not only be about having fun but having peace as well,” he added.
Oliveros then urged the faithful to pray for the safety of the kidnap victims.
“Let us pray that they may return safe and sound. I also hope that those responsible for this will repent and set their victims free,” he said.
“This should also serve as a lesson to our soldiers, police, and government officials of the need to provide security to our tourists and the citizens as well,” added Oliveros.
Militants Rely On Kidnapping
Meanwhile, an expert told the Agence French-Presse (AFP) that Islamic militants in the southern Philippines are relying on kidnapping for their survival with funding from the Middle East drying up and a decade of US-backed military pressure taking a toll.
The kidnapping-for-ransom stings offer the militants a vital source of income, with the best targets the brave or foolhardy foreigners who ignore travel warnings and drift into the most lawless parts of the south, they say.
The dangers were highlighted last Wednesday when the two Europeans on a bird watching trip were kidnapped on remote islands where the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf and other militant groups are known to operate.
Their abductions bring to seven the number of foreigners believed to be being held by militants in the south, with one of them – an elderly Japanese man – not heard of since the middle of 2010.
“They (the militants) look at these foreigners as potential hostages and walking dollars,” said Rommel Banlaoi, executive director of the Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, a Manila-based think-tank.
But while the kidnappings of foreigners often grab the headlines, many more Filipinos are abducted then quietly released after ransoms are paid.
The Abu Sayyaf carries out most of the kidnappings of foreigners, although smaller gangs are also known to snatch targets and sell them to the militants, according to Banlaoi and other security experts.
Banlaoi said that, based on his group's study, about 90 percent of the Abu Sayyaf's funding was now sourced from kidnapping and extortion activities.
Ransom payments are then used to buy more arms, pay off members, hire new recruits or bribe community elders to turn a blind eye to their crimes.
“They have simply realized that kidnap-for-ransom activities are an enterprise to finance their movement,” said Banlaoi, one of the few security analysts to have visited the militants in their strongholds.
The Abu Sayyaf first carried out mass abductions in the 1990s, and in the early part of the following decade launched kidnapping raids that netted them dozens of local, European and American hostages. (With a report from AFP)
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