FOCUS ON MINDANAO PROBLEM INSTEAD OF IRAQ URGED

Manila, April 15, 2003 - Administration Senator Manuel Villar Jr. said the government should focus on solving the peace and order problem plaguing southern Philippines.

Villar said the abduction of a Chinese-Filipino businesswoman by the Abu Sayyaf should serve as a wake- up call to the administration.

He added news reports of the kidnapping incident would again mar the image of the country and may discourage more travelers to visit the Philippines.

"It is unfortunate that such an incident happened at a time when we could proudly claim that the Philippine is SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)-free in order to lure more tourists," he said.

Villar said the government should prioritize the eradication of terrorist groups in Mindanao in order to improve the country's investment climate and boost its image as a tourist destination.

He urged the government to attend to the needs of the Mindanao people rather than focus on organizing medical missions to Iraq.

He said the bombing of Sasa Wharf in Davao City last April 2 killed 16 people and injured 55 others. Prior to this, terrorists also bombed the Davao International Airport.

"The government should first assist the residents of Mindanao before serving the people of Iraq," he said. (Newsflash Philippine Star 04/15 1:46:01 PM)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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