ASEAN meetings to push through; Bohol, ‘safest place on earth’

Chatto Talino

Gov. Edgar Chatto, PRO-7 director Chief Supt. Noli Taliño and other officials discuss at a press briefing the ASEAN meetings in Bohol next week.

The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) meetings set in Bohol next week are expected to push through in the wake of a clash between Philippine security forces and Abu Sayyaf bandits in the province which erupted early Tuesday.

According to Gov. Edgar Chatto, the gun battle which claimed the lives of 3 soldiers, a policeman and six extremists will not affect the meetings on April 19 to 22 as law enforcers have the province’s security under control.

Chatto said that situation in Inabanga where the intense firefight took place has gone back to normal and that the clash did not affect the rest of Bohol.

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“We want international community to be aware that situation was contained Inabanga and did not affect the rest of Bohol or rest of the country,” Chatto said in a televised interview.

The local government through provincial administrator Ae Damalerio also noted that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) particularly its Central Command (CentCom) has “cleared” Bohol.

“They declared Bohol cleared today and business as usual,” Damalerio told national media.

For his part, CentCom commander Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao even deemed Bohol as “now the safest place on earth” as he acknowledged the efforts of the local government unit and communities in Bohol in thwarting the Abu Sayyaf.

The government was able to quell the activities of the Al Queda-linked group before they could carry out what they hatched for the province or other parts of the country due to the cooperation and leadership of Boholanos and security forces, said Lactao.

“As of now because of this incident I could say that Bohol is the safest place on earth…Whatever na plans nila dito, it was disrupted and degraded,” Lactao said in a televised press briefing.

Meanwhile, Police Regional Office 7 director Chief Supt. Noli Taliño said in a separate press conference in Bohol that 4,000 personnel from the Philippine National Police, AFP, emergency response units and various agencies will be deployed during the ASEAN Summit meetings which are expected to draw around 200 delegates from the 10-nation bloc.

The meetings in Bohol will be held at the Hennan Resort in Panglao. These are among 120 ministerial, senior official and technical working group meetings which will be conducted throughout the year.

The conference in Bohol will include the AHKFTA (Free Trade Agreement between ASEAN and Hong Kong) Trade Negotiating Committee and Related Meetings, according to the schedule of yearlong activities released by the ASEAN.

The 30th ASEAN Summit will be on April 26 to 29 in Metro Manila with the major summit held at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on the last day.

As the chair of ASEAN Summit 2017, which coincides with the 10-nation bloc’s 50th year anniversary, the Philippines will also host the 31st ASEAN Summit on November 10 to 14 in Clark, Pampanga. (Rey Tutas)



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