DAVAO CITY: Economic activity remains normal in this part of the Philippines despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law on Tuesday covering the whole region of Mindanao.
No additional checkpoints are visible within Metro Davao, and the nightlife has not been affected. Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio shifted from an earlier lockdown order to a “hold and secure situation.” She has also issued guidelines for the residents and local authorities, aimed at preventing violent elements from entering the city.
The violence that triggered the martial law proclamation was actually more than 250 kilometers away in Marawi City, or roughly five hours’ travel by land. Marawi is the capital city of Lanao del Sur province, and is part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
However, the involvement there of the ISIS-inspired Maute terrorist group became the compelling reason to place the entire island under military rule. This would allow the government to respond quickly to the possibility of extremist groups seeking sanctuary in other parts of the South.
President Duterte had to cut short his official visit to Russia and rushed back to address the brewing crisis. Yesterday, he convened a special Cabinet meeting here to assess the prevailing conditions in Marawi and the rest of Lanao del Sur.
Prior to the Cabinet meeting, Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez said: “The economy is in no way threatened by the imposition of martial law. The military is in full control of the government installations and major infrastructures on the island, ensuring that these facilities are protected so that business transactions will be unaffected.”
He noted that the lawless elements are contained in areas far from Mindanao’s major business centers, and martial law for a limited period is intended to protect the flow of commerce and eliminate future threats to the communities.
Being a Dabawenyo himself, the finance chief believes that “President Duterte’s record in Davao City is strong proof that he has what it takes to overcome and prevail over any and all kinds of threats, turning an area that was once known as the ‘Wild Wild West’ into a thriving, prosperous and stable city in Mindanao.
Based on the latest economic data from the DoF, the ARMM accounted for P50.6 billion or less than 1 percent of the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) of P8.1 trillion in 2016. It had the smallest contribution to our GDP, followed by the Cordillera Administrative Region, which had twice the ARMM’s share.
Mindanao has five other regions, namely: Zamboanga Peninsula (Region 9), Northern Mindanao (Region 10), Davao Region (Region 11), SOCCSKSARGEN (Region 12), and Caraga (Region 13).
But the entire Mindanao economy expanded by 6.4 percent last year, up from the preceding year’s growth of 5.8 percent. Altogether, the six Mindanao regions had a combined 14.4 percent share of the national GDP in 2016.
It’s still too early to determine the impact of martial law on the country’s biggest island, though many in the business community have expressed their support. Will the peace and order problems in Mindanao finally be resolved?
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of FINEX. The author is Chief Financial Officer of the Asian Center for Legal Excellence and serves as Co-Chairman of the FINEX Media Affairs Committee.