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PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

GUNMEN KIDNAP 4: 2 CANADIANS, A NORWEGIAN, A FILIPINA IN LUXURY RESORT IN SAMAL, DAVAO


SEPTEMBER 23 -Crime scene. A private security guard talks to a motorist outside an entrance to the Holiday Ocean View Resort on Samal Island, where gunmen have kidnapped two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian employee and a Filipina. AFP
GUNMEN have kidnapped two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian employee and a Filipina from a luxury resort in Samal Island in Davao del Norte Monday night, police said Tuesday. The suspects—about 11 men armed with long and short firearms—sailed two motorboats into a marina and seized the four from aboard yachts just before midnight on Monday, said Supt. Antonio Rivera, a local police spokesman. Law enforcement boats and helicopters were scouring the waters around the island on Tuesday to try to stop the kidnappers from leaving the area, Rivera said. “They appeared to target the foreigners. They went straight for the yachts,” Rivera said. “[But] we still don’t have anything. We’re blank. No group has taken responsibility and there is no demand for ransom.” A police report identified the Canadian tourists as John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50. The Norwegian, Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56, was the manager of the resort. The 40-year-old Filipina, identified only as Tess, was a companion of one of the foreign tourists. Another Canadian named Steven and his Japanese wife, Kazuka, were able to jump from the kidnapper’s boat. A woman working at the Holiday Ocean View Resort, which operates the marina, confirmed the incident but declined to comment further. READ MORE...RELATED Gunmen abduct three foreign tourists from southern Philippines resort (REUTERS)...

ALSO CALGARY Connection: Intensive' manhunt underway for John Ridsdel, former Calgary journalist abducted in Philippines


SEPTEMBER 22 -John Ridsdel Undated file photo of John Ridsdel, one og two Canadians kidnapped by gunmen from a popular resort island in the southern Philippines. (Reuters)
An "intensive" rescue effort is underway for the former Calgary journalist who was abducted by a squad of armed men in the southern Philippines. Gunmen abducted two Canadians including John Ridsdel, a former mining company executive who worked for both CBC and the Herald between 1973 and 1980, a Filipino woman and the Norwegian marina manager at an upscale resort complex, sparking an air and sea search by authorities, officials said Tuesday. Calgary-based TVI Pacific Inc. spokeswoman Shirley Anthony said Ridsdel is the president of TVI Resource Development, based in the Philippines, and still consults for its parent company. Anthony said the company is keeping information to a minimum with efforts to free him still ongoing. "Intensive rescue efforts are under way and we are limiting personal information about John to protect him," she said. "Right now we are actually in the midst of an intense rescue effort for John, a total manhunt," Anthony told Reuters. "The military is involved as well." READ MORE...RELATED, Gunmen abduct three tourists, including 2 Canadians, from southern Philippines resort...(Toronto Sun)

ALSO: 4 kidnapped from Samal taken to Davao hinterlands—police


SEPTEMBER 23 -ABDUCTION ON SAMAL ISLAND Armed men abducted Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall (inset photos), Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, and a Filipino woman identified only as Tess on the Island Garden City of Samal, just off Davao City, on Monday night. Photo taken on Sept. 19 shows the Norwegian shipbuilder and caretaker of Oceanview Marina posing beside his newly finished catamaran twin-hull yacht at Barangay Camudmud on Samal Island. INSET PHOTOS COURTESY OF AFP EASTERN MINDANAO COMMAND
Gunmen holding three foreigners and one Filipina hostage have slipped past a naval cordon and escaped to remote mountains in the southern Philippines without making ransom demands, police said Wednesday. Elite army troops were trying to track the bandits while air force helicopters were readied for a possible rescue as the abductors trekked into Davao Oriental province, a hotbed of Maoist and Islamic rebels, said Senior Superintendent Aaron Aquino, the region’s deputy police commander. The gunmen seized two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian employee and a Filipina from a luxury island resort on Monday night, adding to a string of kidnappings of foreigners in the conflict-wracked south since the 1990s.
“Last night, we received information that the kidnappers and their victims have been sighted… they are in the Davao Oriental area,” Aquino told DZBB radio. “Our scout rangers are following their tracks. They are on their trail. The air force is also helping, ready for insertion.” Police and the navy had tried to set up a boat blockade on Tuesday around Samal island, where the four were abducted, to stop the gunmen escaping on their outriggers. But Aquino’s comments confirmed the abductors had slipped past and sailed about 50 kilometers (30 miles) east to Davao Oriental, a poor farming and fishing region on the far southeastern edge of Mindanao island. Canadian tourists John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50, were among those abducted, police said. READ MORE...RELATED  Davao under red alert status; task group formed for Samal abduction ...

FROM the Associated Press: Conflicts, guns and misery, foster Philippine kidnappings
[Without any known foreign financial support and after more than a decade of battle setbacks inflicted by U.S.-backed Philippine military offensives, the Abu Sayyaf has survived mostly through kidnappings and extortion. In recent years, they have grown more daring by crossing the sea border to snatch their victims in Malaysia's Sabah state.]
 


SEPTEMBER 24 -Philippine Marines from the Naval Special Operations Group (NAVSOG) rescue a mock kidnap victim, enter, as they simulate an "extraction" of a kidnapped victim as they kick off a five-day amphibious military exercise at the Philippine Marines training center in Ternate, Cavite province, about 50 miles (80kms) south of Manila, PHL Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. The naval exercise dubbed PAGSISIKAP 2015 is aimed at enhancing capability of their fleet & forces and to strengthen interoperability of the Marines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
The recent abductions of three Westerners and a Filipino woman from a southern Philippine resort are the latest reminder of the long-running security problems that have hounded a region with bountiful resources and promises, but hamstrung by stark poverty and an array of insurgents and outlaws.
While authorities have not identified the abductors with certainty, there is one usual suspect: The Abu Sayyaf, a brutal al-Qaida-linked group that has pulled off mass kidnappings for ransom in the last 15 years in the south and in neighboring Malaysia. "The primary suspect is ASG," regional military commander Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad told reporters on Thursday, referring to the group by its acronym. He added, however, that there have been no conclusive findings on the kidnappers' identities. Under cover of darkness, at least 11 men armed with two rifles and pistols barged into the Holiday Ocean View Samal Resort on southern Samal Island shortly before midnight on Sunday then headed toward a huddle of yachts docked at a marina, according to the military and police. In less than 20 minutes, the kidnappers herded at gunpoint Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, the resort's marina manager, and Filipino Teresita Flor, to two motor boats. An American and his Japanese female companion fought back and were injured, but escaped by jumping off their yacht, said Senior Superintendent Samuel Gadingan, the police chief of Davao del Norte province, where Samal is located, about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) southeast of the capital, Manila. Aside from the Abu Sayyaf, investigators have considered the possible involvement of a small extortion gang of former Muslim and communist guerrillas, who have an active presence in the vast Davao region. The latter, however, have in the past publicly declared their abductions, mostly of government troops, within days of seizing them, according to Gadingan. READ MORE...

ALSO: ‘Getaway’ boat found in Sulu


SEPTEMBER 26 -Coast guard personnel aboard a rubber speed boat check a motorized outrigger as they patrol the seas near Davao City and Samal island during the search for kidnapped foreigners. AFP Photo
Authorities have found a boat they suspect was used by kidnappers to take a group of mainly Western hostages to an island stronghold of the bandit group Abu Sayyaf, the military said Saturday. The outrigger boat was found Friday on Jolo, more than 500 kilometers southwest of the Samal island resort where two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina were abducted late Monday, Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado announced. Jolo is the main base of the Abu Sayyaf, Al-Qaeda-linked group that has been blamed for the Asian country’s deadliest terror attacks as well as ransom kidnappings of foreign tourists and Christian missionaries. “We have eyeballed the seacraft, but not the kidnap victims from Samal,” Arrojado, head of a Jolo counter-terrorism task force, told reporters. Officials would not say if the discovery pointed to possible Abu Sayyaf involvement in the kidnapping of Canadian tourists John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50, as well as Norwegian resort manager Kjartan Sekkingstad and Hall’s Filipina girlfriend.No group has claimed responsibility for the abductions.A Manila Times source from the intelligence community however, said the police are eyeing a certain “Tanum” group from Patikul, Sulu as the ones who abducted the foreigners.READ MORE...

ALSO: Amid travel advisories, Palace says Philippines relatively safe


SEPTEMBER 26 -MinDA on the Samal abductions: Mindanao Development Authority asserts that Mindanao continues to pursue a vibrant economy and remains a top tourist destination despite the recent incident in Samal. Stock image Stock image Last Monday, three foreign nationals and one Filipino were abducted from the Island Garden City of Samal. Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) is taking action to ensure that the victims of the recent kidnapping incident are rescued safely, and that the perpetrators are immediately brought to justice. MinDa chair Lualhati Antonio stresses that, while the incident is grave, it is not reflective of the entire situation in Mindanao. In recent years, Mindanao has sustained an uptick in both foreign and domestic tourist arrivals, in spite of travel advisories arising from isolated incidents of bombings and armed clashes in parts of the island. STOCK IMAGE FROM PRESIDENTIAL GAZETTE ONLINE - Malacañang yesterday maintained the Philippines is generally safe amid travel advisories issued by foreign countries due to last Monday’s kidnapping in an island resort in Davao del Norte. At the same time, Malacañang dismissed the offer of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to take the place of the four hostages. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the kidnapping was an isolated case and should not be cause for alarm. Gunmen kidnapped two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian resort manager and a Filipino woman late on Monday at a resort on Samal Island off Davao City. The abductions added to a string of kidnappings of foreigners and locals in the conflict-plagued southern Philippines since the 1990s, which have been typically carried out by the armed groups seeking to extort ransom. Coloma, however, said Samal Island had also been a highly favored tourist destination because of its peace and order situation. READ MORE...RELATED, Govt urged to protect tourist destinations...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Gunmen kidnap 3 aliens, 1 Filipina at posh resort


Crime scene. A private security guard talks to a motorist outside an entrance to the Holiday Ocean View Resort on Samal Island, where gunmen have kidnapped two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian employee and a Filipina. AFP

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 28, 2015 (MANILA STANDARD) By Francisco Tuyay, Sandy Araneta, AFP | Sep. 23, 2015 - GUNMEN have kidnapped two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian employee and a Filipina from a luxury resort in Samal Island in Davao del Norte Monday night, police said Tuesday.

The suspects—about 11 men armed with long and short firearms—sailed two motorboats into a marina and seized the four from aboard yachts just before midnight on Monday, said Supt. Antonio Rivera, a local police spokesman.

Law enforcement boats and helicopters were scouring the waters around the island on Tuesday to try to stop the kidnappers from leaving the area, Rivera said.

“They appeared to target the foreigners. They went straight for the yachts,” Rivera said.

“[But] we still don’t have anything. We’re blank. No group has taken responsibility and there is no demand for ransom.”

A police report identified the Canadian tourists as John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50. The Norwegian, Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56, was the manager of the resort.

The 40-year-old Filipina, identified only as Tess, was a companion of one of the foreign tourists. Another Canadian named Steven and his Japanese wife, Kazuka, were able to jump from the kidnapper’s boat.

A woman working at the Holiday Ocean View Resort, which operates the marina, confirmed the incident but declined to comment further.

READ MORE...

Reports said 30 more foreign tourists were at the resort at the time of the abductions.

The Canadian and Norwegian embassies in Manila declined to comment.

A Norwegian foreign ministry spokeswoman in Oslo, Lothe Salvesen, said the government was investigating the reports of the abductions, but could not confirm any details.

Samal Island, a short boat ride from the southern commercial center of Davao, is famed for powdery white sand beaches and dive spots, with resorts there charging up to $500 a night.

The area, about 800 kilometers southeast of Manila, is a popular stop for foreign tourists who sail around the nation’s many tropical islands.

But the Philippines’ southern region has endured decades of conflict, with Muslim rebels waging a separatist conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Parts of Mindanao are also home to more extreme Muslim militants, the most infamous of which are the Abu Sayyaf. They engage in frequent kidnappings of locals as well as foreigners in often successful efforts to extort ransoms.

The Abu Sayyaf is a ragtag group of several hundred men founded in the 1990s that has withstood US-backed military operations to extinguish it.

In the most recent kidnapping of foreigners, Abu Sayyaf gunmen seized a German couple in April last year while they were sailing off the far southwestern island of Palawan, a popular tourist destination.

The couple was released six months later, with the Abu Sayyaf claiming it had received all of the P250 million it demanded in ransom.

The Abu Sayyaf is currently holding nine hostages, including four foreigners, in the jungles of Jolo island in Mindanao’s southwest, a local military spokesman said Tuesday.

But police on Tuesday said they were also looking into the possibility the abductors might be communist rebels, because they left a letter in the Ocean View Resort demanding the release of a New People’s Army commander held by the military.

Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad said his soldiers would lend support to the police effort to find the kidnap victims, and that they have already deployed helicopters and naval vessels to help in the pursuit operations.

The Palace said the Philippine National Police was leading the hunt for the kidnappers in coordination with the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces and other agencies of the government.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the families of the victims have been informed.

Capt. Alberto Caber, the chief of the public affairs office of the Eastern Mindanao Command, confirmed that they have a description of the abductors based on footage from closed-circuit television cameras from the Ocean View Resort.

But investigators could not say if the armed men were part of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group, who attempted to take hostages from Samal Island’s Pearl Farm in 2001.

Despite concerns that a similar incident will take place during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in November, Caber said the military has yet to detect any threats connected to the event.

Security on Samal Island, managed by Task Force Samal led by Col. Larry Mojico, the PNP, and various resort security officers, has been tightened since the incident.

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RELATED FROM REUTERS

Gunmen abduct three foreign tourists from southern Philippines resort Sepember 23, 2015 Reuters Reuters Manuel Mogato 4 hrs ago SHARE


The abducted foreigners were identified as John Ridsel and Robert Hall from Canada and Kjartan Sekkingstad, the Norwegian manager of the resort. The Filipino woman was not identified. Regional military spokesman Captain Alberto Caber said that two Japanese nationals unsuccessfully tried to intervene before the gunmen escaped with their hostages aboard a motorized outrigger from Samal Island off Davao City, about 975 kilometers (610 miles) south of the capital, Manila. Caber said the abductions took place on Monday evening. REUTERS FILEFull

Two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian resort manager and a Filipino woman have been kidnapped by unidentified gunmen from a popular resort island in the southern Philippines, the army said on Tuesday.

A Canadian mining firm who one of the tourists had worked for said it was conducting an "intense manhunt" in cooperation with the army.

Philippines army Captain Alberto Caber said the four were taken at gunpoint during a raid late on Monday night on the Oceanview resort on Samal island, near Davao City, the largest city on Mindanao island in the restive southern Philippines.

Military and police officials were surprised by the latest attack, a reminder that insecurity persists in the south despite recent peace initiatives with Islamist rebels.

The Davao region has been relatively peaceful for more than a decade. In 2014, a peace agreement with the largest Muslim rebel group in the south ended 45 years of conflict in which about 120,000 people were killed and 2 million displaced.

"Four people were taken but we do not know what group was behind the attack," Caber told reporters. He said there were about 30 foreign tourists at the resort at the time of the raid.

"It appeared the foreigners were the targets, they were not taken at random," he said.

Caber said the abducted foreigners had been identified as John Ridsdel and Robert Hall from Canada and Kjartan Sekkingstad, the Norwegian manager of the resort. The Filipino woman, identified only as Tess, was Hall's partner.

Nicolas Doire, a spokesman for Canada's foreign ministry in Ottawa, said they were aware of the kidnapping but declined to comment or release information that might compromise rescue efforts or the safety of Canadian citizens.

READ MORE...

Shirley Anthony, a spokeswoman for the Calgary-based mining group TVI Pacific Inc, which has a stake in operations in the Philippines, said the company had launched a search for Ridsdel, a semi-retired consultant for TVI.

"PROFESSIONAL KIDNAPPERS"

"Right now we are actually in the midst of an intense rescue effort for John, a total manhunt," Anthony said. "The military is involved as well."

She said she did not believe there had yet been any contact with the kidnappers, but that "the people who have abducted him are professional kidnappers for ransom."

The Philippine Foreign Ministry issued a statement of reassurance about the security of leaders, delegates and guests at November's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit meetings in Manila.

"The incident in Samal Island is being addressed by our concerned authorities to resolve the issue and ensure that the hosting of the AELM is not affected," said spokesman Charles Jose.

Philippine military sources said the gunmen spoke English and Tagalog, the language spoken widely in the Philippines.

"A Japanese couple was initially seized but they were able to escape with some head injuries," Lieutenant-General Aurelio Baladad, the army's regional commander, told reporters. "The gunmen and their captives headed to the east in two boats."

Police said a private security guard had recovered a note reading "Justice for our commander, by NPA" posted on the resort's gate five hours after the abduction, the first sign that Maoist guerrillas might be behind the attack.

However, security and local government officials doubted whether the New People's Army rebels had the capability to carry out the attack. "We are still validating that information," said provincial police chief Samuel Gadingan.

Three navy ships were sent to search for the gunmen's boat, while ground units were also alerted to locate possible landing sites in southeastern Mindanao, an army commander said.

In 2001, Islamist militants from Abu Sayyaf, a group linked to al Qaeda, failed to kidnap foreign tourists on Samal island's Pearl Farm resort. Three security men died fighting off the attack. (Additional reporting by Nicole Mordant and David Ljunggren in OTTAWA; Editing by Kevin Liffey)


CALGARY SUN (ALBERTA, CANADA)

Intensive' manhunt underway for John Ridsdel, former Calgary journalist abducted in Philippines 3 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FIRST POSTED: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2015 07:16 AM MDT | UPDATED: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2015 02:19 PM MDT


John Ridsdel Undated file photo of John Ridsdel, one og two Canadians kidnapped by gunmen from a popular resort island in the southern Philippines. (Reuters)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - An "intensive" rescue effort is underway for the former Calgary journalist who was abducted by a squad of armed men in the southern Philippines.

Gunmen abducted two Canadians including John Ridsdel, a former mining company executive who worked for both CBC and the Herald between 1973 and 1980, a Filipino woman and the Norwegian marina manager at an upscale resort complex, sparking an air and sea search by authorities, officials said Tuesday.

Calgary-based TVI Pacific Inc. spokeswoman Shirley Anthony said Ridsdel is the president of TVI Resource Development, based in the Philippines, and still consults for its parent company.

Anthony said the company is keeping information to a minimum with efforts to free him still ongoing.

"Intensive rescue efforts are under way and we are limiting personal information about John to protect him," she said.

"Right now we are actually in the midst of an intense rescue effort for John, a total manhunt," Anthony told Reuters. "The military is involved as well."

READ MORE...

'PROFESSIONAL KIDNAPPERS'

She said she did not believe there had yet been any contact with the kidnappers, but that "the people who have abducted him are professional kidnappers for ransom."

Ridsdel lives in Puerto Galera, Philippines, according to his Facebook page.

At least 11 men armed with pistols and two rifles arrived on two motorboats and entered the Holiday Ocean View Samal Resort before midnight Monday on Samal Island off Davao City, military and police officials said, citing witnesses and a security video that captured part of the kidnapping.

The gunmen attempted to seize an American and his Japanese companion on one of the yachts docked at the marina, but the couple resisted and escaped by jumping off the boat. The two suffered minor injuries as they struggled to break free from the kidnappers, police said.

Amid the commotion, Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall and the Filipino woman, Teresita Flor, rushed out of their yacht and were taken. Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, who was the resort's marina manager, was seized when he approached to check what was happening, said Senior Supt. Samuel Gandingan, the police chief Davao del Norte province, which includes Samal Island.

Government forces later heard of the abductions and began a search.

"Unfortunately, the lead time that the abductors had and the darkness of night were able to cover the retreat of the abductors," military spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla told reporters in Manila.

Government forces on planes and helicopters were scouring the waters and coastal areas in the Davao Gulf. Two motorboats were found in nearby Davao Oriental province and authorities were trying to ascertain if they were the boats the kidnappers had used, Gandingan said.

Norwegian officials said they have been notified about the reported abduction but have yet to independently confirm it.

"We are obviously very concerned now," Olav David Sekkingstad, the father of the abducted Norwegian, told the Bergens Tidende newspaper in Norway.

There were no immediate booking cancellations and departures of tourists on Samal island although resort operators expect a drop in the number of visitors once news of the abductions spreads, said Araceli Ayuste, who operates two resorts.

No group has claimed responsibility. Muslim and communist rebels, al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf militants and criminal syndicates have been active for years in the restive southern region due to weak law enforcement in rural areas despite years of on-and-off government crackdowns.

Communist New People's Army guerrillas are active in the hinterlands of the Davao region, about 975 kilometres (610 miles) southeast of Manila, where they have denounced foreign mining operations and military counterinsurgency assaults.

Abu Sayyaf militants are notorious for kidnapping foreigners and Filipinos for ransom in the vast Mindanao region. In 2001, Abu Sayyaf militants tried unsuccessfully to seize hostages from the Pearl Farm Beach Resort south of Ocean View during a ransom-kidnapping spree.

The Abu Sayyaf abducted 21 people, mostly European tourists, from a diving resort in neighbouring Malaysia in 2000, then abducted three Americans and 17 Filipinos the following year from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan province southwest of Manila.

Abu Sayyaf gunmen are still holding other hostages, including two Malaysians, a Dutch bird watcher kidnapped nearly three years ago, and a town mayor. All are believed to be held by the militants in their jungle bases in southern Sulu province. with files from Reuters, Shawn Logan

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RELATED FROM THE TORONTO SUN

Gunmen abduct three tourists, including 2 Canadians, from southern Philippines resort MANUEL MOGATO, REUTERS FIRST POSTED: MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2015 09:25 PM EDT police


File photo of armed members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) patrol as they provide security during the Kadayawan festival in a downtown street of Davao city, southern Philippines August 20, 2011. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco/Files

MANILA - Two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian resort manager and a Filipino woman have been kidnapped by unidentified gunmen from a popular resort island in the southern Philippines, the army said on Tuesday.

Philippines army Captain Alberto Caber said the four were taken at gunpoint during a raid late on Monday night on the Oceanview resort on Samal island, near Davao City, the largest city on Mindanao island in the restive southern Philippines.

Military and police officials were surprised by the latest attack, which came as a reminder of volatile security in the south despite recent peace initiatives with Islamist rebels.

The Davao region has been relatively peaceful for more than a decade. In 2014, a peace agreement with the largest Muslim rebel group in the south ended 45 years of conflict that had killed about 120,000 people and displaced 2 million.

"Four people were taken but we do not know what group was behind the attack," Caber told reporters. He said there were about 30 foreign tourists at the resort at the time of the raid.

"It appeared the foreigners were the targets, they were not taken at random," he said.

Caber said the abducted foreigners were identified as John Ridsdel and Robert Hall from Canada and Kjartan Sekkingstad, the Norwegian manager of the resort. The Filipino woman was not identified.

Nicolas Doire, a spokesman for Canada's foreign ministry in Ottawa, said they were aware of the kidnapping but declined to comment or release information that "may compromise ongoing efforts and risk endangering the safety of the Canadian citizens abroad".

Shirley Anthony, a spokeswoman for Calgary-based TVI Pacific Inc, confirmed that Ridsdel, a semi-retired consultant, was among those taken by the gunmen. "We are still learning more about the situation," she said.

Philippine military sources said the gunmen spoke English and Tagalog, the language spoken widely in the Philippines.

"Two Japanese tourists tried to intervene but failed," one of the sources said. The gunmen fled towards the Mindanao mainland with their captives, the source said.

Three navy ships were sent to search and intercept the gunmen's boat, while ground units were also alerted to locate possible landing sites in southeastern Mindanao, an army commander said.

In 2001, al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Islamist militants tried but failed to kidnap foreign tourists on Samal island's Pearl Farm resort. Three security men died fighting the attackers.


INQUIRER

4 kidnapped from Samal taken to Davao hinterlands—police  @inquirerdotnet Agence France-Presse 01:51 PM September 23rd, 2015


ABDUCTION ON SAMAL ISLAND Armed men abducted Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall (inset photos), Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, and a Filipino woman identified only as Tess on the Island Garden City of Samal, just off Davao City, on Monday night. Photo taken on Sept. 19 shows the Norwegian shipbuilder and caretaker of Oceanview Marina posing beside his newly finished catamaran twin-hull yacht at Barangay Camudmud on Samal Island. INSET PHOTOS COURTESY OF AFP EASTERN MINDANAO COMMAND

Gunmen holding three foreigners and one Filipina hostage have slipped past a naval cordon and escaped to remote mountains in the southern Philippines without making ransom demands, police said Wednesday.

Elite army troops were trying to track the bandits while air force helicopters were readied for a possible rescue as the abductors trekked into Davao Oriental province, a hotbed of Maoist and Islamic rebels, said Senior Superintendent Aaron Aquino, the region’s deputy police commander.

The gunmen seized two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian employee and a Filipina from a luxury island resort on Monday night, adding to a string of kidnappings of foreigners in the conflict-wracked south since the 1990s.

“Last night, we received information that the kidnappers and their victims have been sighted… they are in the Davao Oriental area,” Aquino told DZBB radio.

“Our scout rangers are following their tracks. They are on their trail. The air force is also helping, ready for insertion.”

Police and the navy had tried to set up a boat blockade on Tuesday around Samal island, where the four were abducted, to stop the gunmen escaping on their outriggers.

But Aquino’s comments confirmed the abductors had slipped past and sailed about 50 kilometers (30 miles) east to Davao Oriental, a poor farming and fishing region on the far southeastern edge of Mindanao island.

Canadian tourists John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50, were among those abducted, police said.

READ MORE...

The other foreigner was Norwegian resort employee Kjartan Sekkinstad, 56, and the local woman was Hall’s 40-year-old Filipina girlfriend, identified only as Tess.

It was not clear which group was behind the abductions.

“We are waiting for contact from the kidnappers so we will know their demands,” Aquino said.

Investigators were looking at the possible involvement of communist guerillas or Islamic rebels excluded from a peace treaty signed in 2014 with the government, according to Aquino.

Communist and Islamic rebels have been waging decades-long struggles that have claimed tens of thousands of lives.

The impoverished regions of Mindanao have proved fertile recruiting grounds and sanctuary for both groups.

However Aquino said he doubted the involvement of the Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic militant group infamous for carrying out dozens of kidnappings-for-ransom of foreigners as well as locals since the early 1990s.

The outriggers used to storm the marina on Samal island at midnight on Monday were not a “signature” of the Al-Qaeda-linked group, because they typically have high-speed boats, he said.

Nevertheless, armed bandits have in the past kidnapped foreigners in Mindanao and sold them to the Abu Sayyaf.

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RELATED FROM SUNSTAR ONLINE

Davao under red alert status; task group formed for Samal abduction Tuesday, September 22, 2015 By KARLO PAOLO R. PATES


DAVAO. An aerial photo shared by the Department of Public Works and Highways shows the marina of the Holiday Ocean View where three foreigners and one Filipina were abducted by armed men. (Contributed photo)

DAVAO CITY -- The entire Davao region was placed under red alert status while a special task group was formed to go after gunmen who seized three foreigners and a Filipina from a resort in Samal Island Monday.

Senior Superintendent Aaron Aquino, deputy regional director for operations of the Police Regional Office (PRO)-Davao, said even the neighboring provinces of Davao del Sur, Compostela Valley, and Davao Oriental were under red alert status, as all police officers in the region, including personnel from the Philippine Army, Coast Guard, and Navy, were mobilized to go after the gunmen who attacked the Holiday Ocean View Resort in Barangay Camudmud, Babak District, Island Garden City of Samar.

The group of fully-armed men seized from the resort around 11:30 p.m. Monday Kjartan Sekkingstad, a Norwegian national and operations manager of Holiday Ocean View; John Ridsel and Robert Hall, both Canadian nationals; and Tess, a Dabawenya and Hall's girlfriend.

Until late afternoon Tuesday, Tess’ full identity was not available.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, as chair of the regional peace and order council, convened a command conference early Tuesday after being sought out for help by the owner of the resort.

Soon after, the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) "Ocean View" was created by the PRO to go after the gunmen.

READ MORE...

"I will be the overall commander of the SITG Ocean View while Senior Superintendent Samuel Gadingan will be the deputy since the incident happened under his area of responsibility. But our operations will be assisted by the Army, Coast Guard and Navy," said Aquino.

He said the 20 hooded armed men infiltrated the resort and initially abducted five individuals, including an American national identified as Steven Tripp, along with his Japanese girlfriend.

Tripp and his girlfriend were hauled into the motorboats but they fought back, escaped from the hands of the kidnappers, and jumped into the waters as the two motorboats sped off.

"Since nagkaroon nang commotion, pinabayaan na lang sila ng mga abductors. They were brought immediately to a hospital in Igacos. They are safe now and were released from the hospital," Aquino said.

Hot pursuit

Commodore Joselito dela Cruz, commander for the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Southern Mindanao, said the Coast Guard and Navy launched a hot pursuit operation against the unidentified abductors.

"We have dispatched three vessels, which are considered as floating assets. They are in-charge of patrolling the Davao Gulf area for possible traces of the suspects' whereabouts," Dela Cruz told Sun.Star in a separate phone interview.

He admitted that the Coast Guard has a sub-station in Samal but it is far away from the place of incident.

"Tini-trace natin ngayon ay kung saan nila dinala yung mga victims. We are basically monitoring the coastal areas near the place of incident," he added.

Around 9:10 a.m. Tuesday, two motor boats were found abandoned along the coastline in Barangay Tibanban in Governor Generoso town in Davao Oriental.

They were believed to be the ones used by the armed suspects. But Dela Cruz said they have yet to confirm the report.

"Pinupuntahan pa ng tao natin along with the Navy and Davao Oriental police officers," he said.

Senior Superintendent Joseph Sepulchre, police director of the Davao Oriental Police Provincial Office, also said that they are tracking the presence of the armed group in their area following the discovery of the two abandoned motor boats.

"Kahit hindi pa yun confirmed na ginamit ng mga bandido ay may sightings na rin kasi dito sa ating area, so nakadeploy na ang mga tao natin," Sepulchre added.

Eastern Mindanao Command public information officer, Captain Alberto Caber, said that Commodore Rafael Mariano, commander of the Naval Forces EasMinCom, initiated the Navy to provide support to the Philippine National Police (PNP) in its operations.

Abductors’ identities

A piece of paper with a note that says, "Katarungan ng aming commander" with an alleged signature of a New people's Army (NPA) was recovered by the responding officers from the Igacos PNP.

Aquino said they will also try to investigate the possible involvement of the NPA rebels in the kidnapping incident.

"Isa yan sa mga titingnan natin. We don't have concrete evidence yet but it might be a strategy to sway our investigation but we won't take chances din," Aquino said.

Police said they managed to get a copy of a closed circuit television (CCTV) camera inside the resort but it appeared to be blurred, making it difficult for them to even identify one of the abductors.

Security measures

While pursuit operations and investigation are ongoing, Igacos Mayor Aniano Antalan, in his statement issued to the media, urged all the resort owners in Samal to double check their security measures to protect their visitors.

He also asked them to install more high definition CCTV cameras inside their resorts and get additional well-trained security guards.

The Davao City Police Office (DCPO) also said that it will not take chances in its security measures even if the incident took place in Igacos, which is a different city in a separate province.

Chief Inspector Milgrace Driz said the DCPO also deployed more police personnel along the coastlines of Davao City, particularly in beach resorts in Talomo and Sasa area.

"We are closely monitoring all resorts in the city and we provided additional maritime police. Maximum security ang ipoprovide natin but so far, negative sa ating intel ang presence ng armed group dito," Driz said. (Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

Related articles
Speedy release of abducted foreigners, Filipina sought

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on September 23, 2015.


PHILSTAR (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Conflicts, guns and misery foster Philippine kidnappings By Jim Gomez (Associated Press) | Updated September 24, 2015 - 6:57pm 0 3 googleplus0 0


Philippine Marines from the Naval Special Operations Group (NAVSOG) rescue a mock kidnap victim, enter, as they simulate an "extraction" of a kidnapped victim as they kick off a five-day amphibious military exercise at the Philippine Marines training center in Ternate, Cavite province, about 50 miles (80kms) south of Manila, Philippines Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. The naval exercise dubbed PAGSISIKAP 2015 is aimed at enhancing capability of their fleet and forces as well as to strengthen interoperability of the Marines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

MANILA, Philippines — The recent abductions of three Westerners and a Filipino woman from a southern Philippine resort are the latest reminder of the long-running security problems that have hounded a region with bountiful resources and promises, but hamstrung by stark poverty and an array of insurgents and outlaws.

While authorities have not identified the abductors with certainty, there is one usual suspect: The Abu Sayyaf, a brutal al-Qaida-linked group that has pulled off mass kidnappings for ransom in the last 15 years in the south and in neighboring Malaysia.

"The primary suspect is ASG," regional military commander Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad told reporters on Thursday, referring to the group by its acronym. He added, however, that there have been no conclusive findings on the kidnappers' identities.

Under cover of darkness, at least 11 men armed with two rifles and pistols barged into the Holiday Ocean View Samal Resort on southern Samal Island shortly before midnight on Sunday then headed toward a huddle of yachts docked at a marina, according to the military and police.

In less than 20 minutes, the kidnappers herded at gunpoint Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, the resort's marina manager, and Filipino Teresita Flor, to two motor boats.

An American and his Japanese female companion fought back and were injured, but escaped by jumping off their yacht, said Senior Superintendent Samuel Gadingan, the police chief of Davao del Norte province, where Samal is located, about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) southeast of the capital, Manila.

Aside from the Abu Sayyaf, investigators have considered the possible involvement of a small extortion gang of former Muslim and communist guerrillas, who have an active presence in the vast Davao region. The latter, however, have in the past publicly declared their abductions, mostly of government troops, within days of seizing them, according to Gadingan.

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It remains uncertain which group is behind the latest abduction, but the conditions that foster such crimes are much clearer: A volatile mix of poverty, weak law enforcement and access to thousands of unlicensed firearms in the south, said Julkipli Wadi, dean of the Institute for Islamic Studies at the state-run University of the Philippines.

It's very likely too that those deep-seated social ills would not be solved anytime soon and kidnappings would fester, he said.

"These are generational problems that are difficult to be solved by presidents who are restricted to six-year terms and often lack political will," Wadi said.

Kidnappings for ransom have preceded the Abu Sayyaf. But the group has started an alarming trend of large-scale abductions after it emerged in the early 2000 as an offshoot of the decades-long separatist rebellion by minority Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation's south.

The Abu Sayyaf abducted 21 people, mostly European tourists, from a Malaysian diving resort in 2000, freeing them later reportedly in exchange for huge ransoms.

The militants took three Americans and 17 Filipinos the following year from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan province southwest of Manila, then staged a failed kidnapping attempt in a popular resort on Samal Island, near where Sunday's abductions happened.


It remains uncertain which group is behind the latest abduction, but the conditions that foster such crimes are much clearer: a volatile mix of poverty, weak law enforcement and access to thousands of unlicensed firearms in the south, said Julkipli Wadi, dean of the Institute for Islamic Studies at the state-run University of the Philippines. IN THIS PHOTO PHILIPPINES-MILITANTS/ The Philippine military has been battling various militant groups in the country's south for several years. The group include separatist Muslims who want to break away from the predominately Roman Catholic country as well as communist guerrillas. (Stringer/Reuters)

Without any known foreign financial support and after more than a decade of battle setbacks inflicted by U.S.-backed Philippine military offensives, the Abu Sayyaf has survived mostly through kidnappings and extortion. In recent years, they have grown more daring by crossing the sea border to snatch their victims in Malaysia's Sabah state.

The U.S. military's antiterrorism task force in the southern Philippines was deactivated in February after 13 years, as Washington recently shifted focus to supporting freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. U.S. forces continue to provide intelligence and training to Filipino troops in the south.

The rewards for Abu Sayyaf kidnappers have been relatively huge. Aside from the money, kidnap victims have been used as a human shield to pre-empt government offensives. High-profile abductions also have allowed the militants to capture the attention of foreign terrorist networks, a confidential government security assessment report said.

Last year, the militants were estimated to have pocketed more than 277 million pesos ($6 million) in ransom from the kidnappings of 59 people, said the report, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

"Kidnapping has indeed become a lucrative industry in Mindanao," the report said, referring to the southern region. It added without elaborating that unidentified corrupt politicians and even law enforcers have benefited from the crime.

Buddy Recio, a Filipino travel writer who was abducted by the Abu Sayyaf militants with his wife and son at the Palawan resort in 2001, said it pains him to know that the militants have endured and continue to seize innocent people, who would go through the same harrowing ordeal that they have endured.

Recio's son was freed and he and his wife were wounded in a crossfire, prompting the Abu Sayyaf militants to leave them after a week of captivity. If the new kidnap victims could hear him, Recio said he would advise them to stay fit to endure the extremely rough time ahead and to look forward to a brighter ending.

"They should keep on hoping," Recio said. "They should think that there are governments and friends working to set them free."

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

Thousands search for kidnapped tourists; PNoy: A new armed group may be behind abduction By Francisco Tuyay, Sandy Araneta | Sep. 24, 2015 at 12:01am


Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall

THOUSANDS of security forces, supported by air and sea assets, scoured the hinterlands of Eastern Mindanao on Wednesday in search of three foreigners and a Filipina who were abducted from a resort in Samal Island in Davao del Norte Monday.

Military and police units searched for Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Maritess Flor even as President Benigno Aquino III claimed in Luna, Apayao on Wednesday that a new armed group may be behind the abduction which has led to the issuance of travel advisory by the Canandian Embassy in Manila.

Meantime, the authorities found in Governor Generoso town in Davao Oriental two motorized outriggers that are believed to have been used by the kidnappers while the police provided a cartographic sketches of some of the suspects.

The military said the two boats were possibly the ones used by at least 11 armed men who snatched the four victims while they were inside a yacht berthed at the Ocean View Island Resort.

Initial investigation disclosed that the kidnappers and their captives were last seen heading in the general direction of Zamboanga, Basilan and Sulu area, but it could not be ascertained whether the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group was directly behind the abduction as initially believed.

Initial reports tagged the group of ASG commander Muammar Askali, alias Abu Rami, as responsible for the kidnapping.

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Capt. Alberto Caber, Public Affairs Officer in Eastern Mindanao Command, said all units were alerted to support the ongoing police operations while the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command has intensified intelligence gathering and the deployment of naval assets.

“All efforts are currently being exhausted by the military and police to locate and establish the identities of the abductors,” said Westmincom chief Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero.

“We have dispatched navy units for maritime interdiction along possible routes and have intensified our intel monitoring to locate the group and the victims in coordination with the Eastern Mindanao Command,” added Guerrero.

Meanwhile in Luna, Apayao, President Aquino yesterday said a new armed group may be behind the abduction of three foreigners and a Filipino woman from an island resort in Samal in Davao City.

“Our security sector is not stopping to do their job to go after the suspects,” said Aquino during an ambush interview at the Bienvenido G. Verzola Jr. Memorial Sports Complex in Luna.

Aquino was in Apayao on Wednesday to inspect the Far North Luzon General Hospital. He was also briefed on the major infrastructure projects being implemented in the province.

“Authorities reviewed what happened. And it seems that in the initial report, there’s a new armed group,” Aquino said.

“Of course, our intelligence services will account for this. Why did it not appear in their radars? Or maybe, this is really a newly-formed group. We still do not know. What is their motivation, it is still not yet clear,” said Aquino.


MANILA TIMES

‘Getaway’ boat found in Sulu September 26, 2015 10:02 pm
by AL JACINTO, SENIOR REPORTER AND ANTHONY VARGAS, CORRESPONDENT


Coast guard personnel aboard a rubber speed boat check a motorized outrigger as they patrol the seas near Davao City and Samal island during the search for kidnapped foreigners. AFP Photo

Authorities have found a boat they suspect was used by kidnappers to take a group of mainly Western hostages to an island stronghold of the bandit group Abu Sayyaf, the military said Saturday.

The outrigger boat was found Friday on Jolo, more than 500 kilometers southwest of the Samal island resort where two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina were abducted late Monday, Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado announced.

Jolo is the main base of the Abu Sayyaf, an Al-Qaeda-linked group that has been blamed for the Asian country’s deadliest terror attacks as well as ransom kidnappings of foreign tourists and Christian missionaries.

“We have eyeballed the seacraft, but not the kidnap victims from Samal,” Arrojado, head of a Jolo counter-terrorism task force, told reporters.

Officials would not say if the discovery pointed to possible Abu Sayyaf involvement in the kidnapping of Canadian tourists John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50, as well as Norwegian resort manager Kjartan Sekkingstad and Hall’s Filipina girlfriend.

No group has claimed responsibility for the abductions.

A Manila Times source from the intelligence community however, said the police are eyeing a certain “Tanum” group from Patikul, Sulu as the ones who abducted the foreigners.

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Arrojado said the 25-meter (82-foot) boat suspected of taking the hostages to Jolo was found abandoned at the coastal town of Parang. It was fitted with two onboard engines, but was taking in water apparently from a breach on its hull, he added.

Regional police spokesman Antonio Rivera told AFP that of all the “threat groups” in the south, those based on Jolo were the ones most skilled in using boats.

However, he added: “We cannot say that they (Abu Sayyaf) are involved at this time.”

The authorities earlier said they had received reports the kidnappers had taken their victims to the impoverished Davao Oriental.

However Rivera told AFP Saturday “no boat was seen there (Davao Oriental) contrary to what was earlier reported”.

Jolo-based Abu Sayyaf and several other renegade Muslim rebel groups have in recent years collaborated in kidnapping foreigners elsewhere in the south, with the victims eventually taken to back Jolo, retired police general Rodolfo Mendoza, who once headed the PNP intelligence group, said.

“They have done it not only on western Mindanao (including Jolo) but they are now also doing it on the eastern Mindanao side,” said Mendoza, president of the Manila think-tank Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism.

He said he had no information on whether this was the case in the Samal kidnapping.

Capt. Roy Trinidad, a spokesman for the military’s anti-terror task force, said there is no confirmation the hostages were taken to Sulu, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. “We have no confirmation about these reports, but we continue to search for the abductors and their victims. The operation is going on and we have alerted our forces to be on the lookout,” he told The Manila Times.
Trinidad said the military is getting a barrage of intelligence and all these information are still being verified. “There are so many intelligence reports saying the hostages are in Sulu, Davao Oriental and all these are raw information unless verified and confirmed, but nothing so far,” he said.
Police authorities also said there were no indications the hostages were taken to Sulu.
Sulu’s Area Coordinating Council also said it has no information whether the victims had been transferred to the province. The Sulu Area Coordination Council – organized during the time of then Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan – is where various agencies converge to address issues, resolve conflicts and find the best solution to current problems besetting the province.

The province has a total of 20 Area Coordinating Centers – one for each of Sulu’s 19 towns and the central headquarters in Patikul town.

Last year, police authorities said it up a Special Anti-Kidnapping Task Force to address the threats of kidnappings and abductions in Sulu.

Gov. Totoh Tan has previously said that many kidnapped victims were taken from other provinces and cities only to bring and hide them in Sulu, dragging the province to a situation that gives a bad impression to the local peace and order situation.

But while local government officials and multi-sectoral sectors work hand in hand to address the rising criminality and the threats posed by the Abu Sayyaf, other groups with political agenda have resorted in spreading false reports of kidnappings and killings and other black propaganda in social media, including Facebook, to further scare the public and destroy the reputation of different leaders in Sulu.

Locals have condemned and others protested the spate of kidnappings in Sulu and some also launched online campaign in social media to denounce the kidnappings in the province.

Police and military have tightened security on Samal Island, a favorite destination of foreigners and Filipino holidaymakers in southern Philippines because of its pristine beaches and diving and snorkelling sites.


PHILSTAR

Amid travel advisories, Palace says Philippines relatively safe By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 26, 2015 - 12:00am 0 14 googleplus0 0


MinDA on the Samal abductions: The Mindanao Development Authority asserts that Mindanao continues to pursue a vibrant economy and remains a top tourist destination despite the recent incident in Samal. Stock image Stock image Last Monday, three foreign nationals and one Filipino were abducted from the Island Garden City of Samal. Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) is taking action to ensure that the victims of the recent kidnapping incident are rescued safely, and that the perpetrators are immediately brought to justice. MinDa chair Lualhati Antonio stresses that, while the incident is grave, it is not reflective of the entire situation in Mindanao. In recent years, Mindanao has sustained an uptick in both foreign and domestic tourist arrivals, in spite of travel advisories arising from isolated incidents of bombings and armed clashes in parts of the island.STOCK IMAGE FROM PRESIDENTIAL GAZETTE ONLINE

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang yesterday maintained the Philippines is generally safe amid travel advisories issued by foreign countries due to last Monday’s kidnapping in an island resort in Davao del Norte.

At the same time, Malacañang dismissed the offer of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to take the place of the four hostages.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the kidnapping was an isolated case and should not be cause for alarm.

Gunmen kidnapped two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian resort manager and a Filipino woman late on Monday at a resort on Samal Island off Davao City.

The abductions added to a string of kidnappings of foreigners and locals in the conflict-plagued southern Philippines since the 1990s, which have been typically carried out by the armed groups seeking to extort ransom.

Coloma, however, said Samal Island had also been a highly favored tourist destination because of its peace and order situation.

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Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia have warned citizens against traveling to southern Philippines due to security concerns.

Coloma said authorities were doing their best to rescue the victims but they would have to be circumspect in giving information to avoid compromising the operations against the kidnappers.

Coloma added business confidence in the country must not be affected by an isolated case of kidnapping vis-a-vis the country’s gains in the past five years.

“Our investment grade rating is on account of the sound macro-economic management fundamentals that investors have recognized. This is part of good governance as a whole,” Coloma said, adding that curbing criminality was also part of good governance.

“That is why we are confident that the country’s solid image before the global financial and investment community will continue,” Coloma said.

He said that despite the security forces’ lack of resources and manpower compared to the current population, their analytical ability and vigilance could not be discounted as reason for the country’s remaining peaceful and orderly.

Coloma said a manifestation of this would be the increase in foreign tourist arrivals as well as domestic tourism.

“(They) freely and happily travel from one island to another, from one tourist destination to another,” Coloma said.

Officials, however, said last Monday’s kidnapping was a setback for the country’s tourism industry.

Former tourism secretary Richard Gordon said the kidnapping would undermine the gains of the government in promoting the Philippines as a tourist destination.

Valenzuela City Rep, Sherwin Gatchalian yesterday urged the Department of Tourism to implement measures to contain the adverse effect of the kidnapping to the country’s tourism industry.

He said the kidnapping would have an adverse effect not only on the country’s tourism but more so on the economy as potential foreign investors could be discouraged due to security concerns.

Gatchalian said tourism is one of the top dollar-earners but it is also sensitive to foreigners’ perception of the country. He said the DOT must work hard to attain its goal of 10 million tourist arrivals this year.

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said the daring kidnapping that was captured on CCTV cameras showed how the hostages were mistreated. He said the images would adversely affect the country’s tourism industry.

Atienza said Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. will face grilling at the House of Representatives over the kidnapping when the chamber deliberates on its proposed budget for 2016.

“He (Jimenez) told us during the budget hearings, the Philippine is the safest place for foreign tourists. What can he say now?” Atienza said.

Atienza slammed Malacañang for dismissing the kidnapping as “a very isolated incident.”

“If that is the excuse of Malacañang, I don’t think they’re interested in resolving the situation and protect our local and foreign tourists,” he said.

Atienza said even tourists in Manila are victimized, some of them being hurt or killed in robberies.

Asked if the incident was election-related, Coloma said the police and military had a good record of keeping peace and order during the 2013 elections, citing a crackdown on loose firearms.

Coloma added the country would do its best to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November.

He said the government would endeavor to create a beautiful and favorable environment for the holding of a major summit involving the leaders of 21 member economies of the APEC.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said the government should not relax on security with the latest kidnapping incident amid preparations for the APEC summit.

“It is an embarrassment for our government because it shows its incapability to guarantee the safety of the people,” said CBCP executive secretary Fr. Jerome Secillano.

“So, while the world leaders who will be coming here for APEC will definitely be secured, they would, I think, be very concerned about the safety of their own citizens residing in our country,” he added.

Prudence

Based on reports, Duterte was offering himself as hostage in exchange for the four captives taken from Samal Island.

Malacañang declined Duterte’s offer, saying operations are underway to rescue the kidnap victims.

“It would not be prudent for government to place another in a risky situation,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

Duterte is chairman of the Regional Peace and Order Council in the Davao region, a member of the interagency task force composed of the police and the military hunting down the kidnappers.

Authorities believed the kidnappers and their captives have slipped through the naval cordon and could be anywhere in mainland Mindanao.

A senior security official yesterday said the troops, in pursuing the leads on the possible whereabouts of the kidnappers and their captives, have returned empty-handed.

“Many of our leads in locating the kidnap victims have gone cold,” said the security official privy to the ongoing rescue operations.

He added that troops are still pursuing other leads.

Other sources said the hostages were brought to another group that ferried them to Pagadian City before they were finally brought to Sulu where they are now being held.

Security officials, however, said the reports that the hostages were brought to Sulu were false.

If the kidnappers were indeed headed either towards Sulu or Basilan, it will take several days of sea travel before they could reach their intended harboring area anywhere near the two troubled island provinces.

The official stressed the kidnappers could not just sail straight from Davao Gulf to the Sulu Sea as this requires a lot of resources, including a bigger and faster boat.

“They’re still in Davao region and we are looking forward to a favorable result in our ongoing rescue operations this weekend,” the official said.

Intelligence reports said the kidnappers could be from a well-organized group that enjoyed a wide mass base support, thus making the ongoing massive law enforcement operations to rescue the hostages doubly difficult.

The Zamboanga City-based Western Mindanao Command, in coordination with police counterparts, implemented a naval blockade in Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi to intercept the kidnappers.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri flew to the Davao City-based Eastern Mindanao Command yesterday to ensure support for the police in ongoing efforts in rescuing the hostages. – Jaime Laude, Edith Regalado, Paolo Romero, Evelyn Macairan

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA TIMES

Govt urged to protect tourist destinations September 24, 2015 7:44 pm by NEIL A. ALCOBER, REPORTER


FORMER senator Richard Gordon

FORMER senator Richard Gordon on Thursday urged the government to safeguard the country’s tourist havens and destinations with regular patrols and a heightened presence of authorities.

“When you invite in the tourists, we should also make sure that they’re protected during their stay in the country,” Gordon, also a former tourism secretary, said in a statement in response to the recent kidnapping of three foreigners and a Filipina on Samal Island in Davao del Norte last Monday.

“I commiserate with the local government units and the tourism industry, this will undermine all our gains in promoting the Philippines as a tourism destination.

Government should act with urgency to safely recover the victims, but this should be a concerted effort by the authorities and the public as well, there must be a command responsibility to address this crisis. It is through this that we can reassure the Canadian and Norwegian governments that we are doing all we can,” he added.

Meanwhile, Gordon said the Tourism department should create a continuity plan to mend the tarnished image the country had due to the incident, believing that this will restore loyalty and continued patronage both for foreign and local visitors.

He added that all tourism destinations must have a strictly implemented security plan to avert similar incidents in the future.

In 2009, Gordon authored in the Senate R.A. 9593, which aims to strengthen the country’s attraction as a premier tourism destination that would pave the way for other benefits resulting to a positive global view of the country.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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