Dangerous region in Philippines opens for tourism

New programs for Maguindanao and Tawi-Tawi islands

Mindanao, otherwise known as the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, has begun seeking partnerships with the Philippine travel trade for halal and pilgrimage tourism, offering new programs for Maguindanao and the islands of Tawi-Tawi.

This is despite the fact that two European bird-watching tourists visiting Tawi-Tawi were kidnapped in 2012 and have not yet been freed.

The Maguindanao program showcases the highlands of Upi with its caves, waterfalls and Tiruray ethnic community, while Tawi-Tawi highlights its beaches and the Muslim pilgrimage site Sheik Makhdum mosque built in 1380.

“The [Upi] culture is preserved,” said Marites Maguindra, regional cabinet secretary for the region at the country’s tourism department. “People behave the way they were doing one hundred years back, growing organic food like rice and corn.”

Speaking at the Philippine Tour Operators Association’s 25th Philippine Travel Mart held earlier this month, Maguindra said that with the involvement of the private sector, these new programs sold by three Maguindanao operators are Mindanao’s way of using tourism as a “bridge of peace”. But she acknowledged that safety remains a concern in the region, known for clan warfare and kidnaps for ransom.

The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao has been developing a Top Cop program similar to that already in place in Boracay and Bohol for the safety of tourists, Maguindra assured.

TTG Asia

[pictured: Mindanao coast; photo by Dr.A.Hugentobler; Creative Commons license]

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