Army lifts travel advisory in Southern Iloilo mountains

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

Just in time for the Holy Week, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) lifted its advisory for tourists to refrain from mountaineering activities in the towns of Miagao, Igbaras, and San Joaquin following the series of armed clashes between the government forces and the New People’s Army (NPA).

In an interview, Lt. Col. Sisenando Magbalot, commander of the 61st Infantry Battalion (61IB), said tourists can now go back to their usual trekking and camping activities in the towns of Igbaras, Miagao, and San Joaquin,

“We are done with our operations in these areas and we can now encourage tourists to do their normal activities in the mountain tourist spots. We are now doing security operations, not the pursuit operations that we did previously,” Magbalot said.

The Philippine Army recently advised tourists to avoid mountaineering activities in the said towns for their safety following the series of clashes between Army soldiers and rebels in the past one week.

According to Magbalot, they issued the unofficial advisory to caution the tourists as part of its preventive measures during the 50th anniversary of the New People’s Army (NPA) on March 29.

He also assured that they will be coordinating with the local government units (LGUs) of the said towns.

“By this time, we will be coordinating with them na tapos na yung ating operations dun sa lugar and security operations na lang ginagawa natin so pwede na silang umakyat ulit,” Magbalot said.

Recently, San Joaquin Tourism Officer Erlyn Alunan said their town is expecting many tourists who will not only go hiking and trekking but visit some of their ecological destinations especially in the Holy Week.

Alunan added that tourists would usually go to Pan-ay, a shared territory of Miagao and San Joaquin where the access point is at Brgy. Ginot-an in San Joaquin.

“During this month, many barangays also celebrate their fiestas across the town and some guests would usually visit their friends and relatives,” she said in the previous interviews.

She also appealed to tourists and hikers to coordinate and secure permits from the LGU before hiking or camping on the mountains.

Once they secure the permits, Alunan said they would endorse tourists to the barangays where they will be provided with guides and people in authority to ensure their safety.

Miag-ao Mayor Macario Napulan also encouraged tourist and locals to coordinate with their office before hiking or going to tourist spots.

Napulan lamented that locals and tourists would usually visit the tourist spots even without coordination with their office.

During lent season, Napulan said that tourists and locals would go to some of their tourist spots in Tinagong Dagat and Rice Terraces as part of their tradition.

Meanwhile, Magbalot assured that they will be securing the tourists or locals who plan to do outdoor activities.

“Alam natin na maraming magtatake ng leave, maraming gagawa ng outdoor activities and we assure them na we will secure them,” he noted.