By: F. Allan L. Angelo & Louine Hope Conserva
CHIEF SUPT. Cesar Hawthorne Binag, Police Regional Office-6 director, summed up his impression of Iloilo City and the rest of Western Visayas in these words: “If given the chance to raise my children again, I want them to grow here.”
The statement elicited a thunderous applause from leaders of the business, religious, cultural and other sectors who attended the launching of “Proud to be Ilonggo” campaign at The Mansion in Iloilo City, Sept 30, 2017.
Binag was the guest speaker of the launching where he discussed the present peace and order situation of Region 6, especially Iloilo.
Just like any other place in the country, Binag said the illegal drug trade is also a problem in Iloilo, thus the tags of “most shabulized” and “bedrock of illegal drugs” uttered by the acid-tongued Pres. Rodrigo Duterte is a challenge for PRO-6.
But Binag stressed that there are no shabu laboratories in Iloilo and Region 6, in general, and that top illegal drug syndicate leaders have been neutralized, the latest being Richard Prevendido.
Binag also said they are running after the remnants of the two drug syndicates in the region aside from curbing illegal gambling and other major crimes.
He also stressed that kidnap-for-ransom, high-profile robberies and murders rarely happen in the region.
“Generally, Western Visayas remains peaceful,” he added.
But Binag also acknowledged that a handful of police officers are involved in rackets but they working hard to cleanse their ranks through the program “We transform as we perform.”
He sought the cooperation of the public in helping cleanse the PNP of its dregs.
‘PROUD TO BE ILONGGO’
“Proud to be Ilonggo” is considered the business sector’s response to the rants and labels Iloilo City and province got from the acid-tongued Pres. Rodrigo Duterte.
The campaign aims “to reaffirm and defend the pride of Iloilo” amid tags of “most shabulized” and “bedrock of illegal drugs.”
The campaign was led by the Iloilo Economic and Development Foundation Inc. (ILED) with the participation of other sectors such as the professional, civil society, youth, academe, women, religious groups, and the media.
ILED chairman Narzalina Lim said this is their response to events and statements from the President that tainted the image of Iloilo City and the province.
“We have to be ready for any eventuality because the environmental is a little bit unstable. One thing is said and another thing happens so we have to be ready to shift to a crisis mode of public relations in case any untoward happens,” Lim said.
She said the campaign is an effort to shore up the pride of the Ilonggos and convince them to take responsibility for their own community.
The launching of the campaign will be followed by the creation of a Facebook account where they will upload the statistics on the peace and order situation in Iloilo presented by Police Regional Office (PRO-6) Chief Superintendent Cesar Hawthorne Binag during the dialogue simultaneous with the launching.
“We’d like to reach our fellow Ilonggos abroad. There are many Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) from this region. And basi ga-believe na sila bala sa mga gina-siling about Iloilo. So we want to reach them also because they are an influential sector,” she added.
Lim said they chose not to confront or counter the negative issues, instead they will just show the world what Iloilo can offer.
“Let’s just go ahead and show the world that it’s business as usual in Iloilo. You know we are so busy with so many events. And we still have to continue bringing the investments in,” she said.
“We are always asked, ‘Is it true? Why does the president hate Iloilo so much?’ So a lie repeated so often can become truth so people begin to doubt. That’s why we have to have this campaign to counteract that but in a positive way without even alluding to anybody. We’ll just say this is what’s happening in Iloilo. It’s safe. It’s secure, as not one single major incident happened as what General Binag said. We are going to work together actively as a group to ensure that our citizens and visitors are safe,” Lim said.
ILED President Jocelyn Perez said the campaign is a manifestation of Ilonggo’s united effort to ensure that Iloilo’s development is on track.
“We need to reaffirm our pride and to declare that Iloilo is as ready as ever to take its place among the most liveable and business friendly locations in the world,” she said.
“Recent events have put in Iloilo in the spotlight that unfortunately threatened to derail the progress that has been made. As peace-loving as we Ilonggos are, we must ensure that we do what we can to stay on track,” she added.
Perez said there is so much Iloilo can offer, from the beautiful airport, wide concrete highways, new gleaming business districts, convention center, and open spaces.
Having been away for 30 years, the ILED president said she chose to make Iloilo her next habitat.
Together with non-Ilonggo business colleagues, Perez have started up a business based in Concepcion, Iloilo.
And she said the business climate in the area received positive response from her partners.
“Last week we began commercial operations. After almost a year of setting up the company, obtaining permits, buying equipment, hiring people, and installing the plant, the experience has been most satisfying. My non-ilonggo parnerts are simply delighted to have chosen to invest in Iloilo. I myself am very impressed. This is not the Iloilo I remember from my youth,” she said.
NO EFFECT ON BUSINESS
Lim stressed that the negative portrayal of Iloilo has not affected the business climate in the city and province.
“Not that I know of. Our conferences are ongoing,” Lim said.
She cited that there will be new office spaces that are coming up for the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry.
She added that a real estate agency recently reported that they lack space for offices and BPOs in the city.
Despite the stable investment climate, Lim said they do not remain complacent considering the unstable situation in the country right now.
“So medyo calm subong but it can be turbulent the other day because of the character we’re dealing with,” he said.
Department of Tourism Regional Director (DOT-6) Director Helen Catalbas reaffirmed her previous statement that the tourism industry is unfazed by the negative connotation of Iloilo.
“If the conventions and the events are the indicators I think we are busier now. Mas damo delegates because there are more events actually,” she said.
She said she supports the campaign and that the sector is also doing its