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In wake of Bali Bombing
RP to Ensure Security in Tourism
Tourism Secretary Joseph Durano of the Philippines speaks at al press conference.

Despite setbacks like the latest bombing on Bali, the Southeast Asian countries have achieved a great deal in recent years in the fight against terrorism.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and the Bali bombings the following year, the Philippines and other regional countries have stepped up their anti-terrorism efforts.

Immediately after the recent bombings in Bali,the Department of Tourism (DoT) of the Philippines issued a statement allaying fears of possible untoward incidents in the country's tourism destinations.

With an impressive number of Koreans arriving in the Philippines topping the country's list of inbound tourist traffic in mid-year, the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) has recently opened its DOT-National Tourism Organization (NTO) office in Seoul .

The new tourism office signals Philippines' all out effort to focus on the highly promising Korean market

Secretary Durano said that Korean tourists have nothing to worry about because the DoT is coordinating with the Philippine National Police (PNP) to strengthen security.

"Our Tourist Police and the Task Force Turista Patrol will monitor and will be more visible in tourist belt areas like Intramuros, Malate and Luneta Park in Manila," he said.

As for the provinces, DoT launched the Security of Tourists Operational Program (STOP) to spread awareness and address tourist security-related issues. "Vigilance not only from security organs but as well as the local community and business owners should be emphasized," Durano said.

In the meantime, Voice of America (VOA) quoted regional security experts as saying that there have been widespread improvements in internal and border security, as well as an increase in regional cooperation among governments and security forces.

Since the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, Southeast Asian authorities have arrested and imprisoned hundreds of suspected Islamic militants, including several key leaders with ties to the terrorist organizations al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiyah, or J.I. More than 30 J.I. members connected to the 2002 Bali bombings have been tried, convicted, and in several cases, sentenced to death.

According to VOA, security consultant Mike Horner with the firm Control Risk Group in Singapore thinks these achievements are not getting enough credit.

"We do not often hear of the successes that governments have against terrorist groups because they are nipped in the bud before they occur - that is not widely publicized," said Mike Horner. "Unfortunately, the ones we hear about are the successful terrorist attacks like the one in Bali on Saturday."

Mr. Horner believes that the reason terrorists have chosen so-called soft targets, like the beach restaurants that were bombed in Bali, is in part a response to the tightened security around embassies, schools, shopping malls and government buildings.

Terrorism experts also think the small backpack bombs used Saturday indicate that militants no longer have the capacity to build and deploy large bombs - like the explosive-packed van used in Bali three years ago.

Other experts and leaders say that while increased anti-terrorism efforts have scored successes, more needs to be done to eradicate groups like J.I., which is suspected in Saturday's bombings.

Rohan Gunaratna is a terrorism expert at Nanyang University's Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore. He thinks that regional governments - particularly Indonesian leaders - are not doing enough to fight terrorism.

"The Indonesian government has not designated Jemaah Islamiyah as a terrorist group," said Rohan Gunaratna. "Jemaah Islamiyah is a legal organization. It is perfectly legal to distribute propaganda, to recruit, to raise money."

Southeast Asia suffers from certain problems that make stamping out terrorism difficult. One problem, experts say, is the increasingly diffuse and decentralized nature of regional militant groups.

That, of course, is partly the result of the crackdowns of the past few years. With many leaders and operatives already jailed or being hunted, it is difficult for militants to form large cells. Smaller groups, operating independently from any known leadership, are harder to find.

Also, the vast and porous marine borders of many Southeast Asian countries make it difficult to track and control the movement of individuals or groups between countries..
Tourism Secretary Joseph Durano of the Philippines is having a friendly get-togther with Korean friends including U..S Chung,president of Korea Tourism Association at a traditional Korean restaurant in downtown Seoul in September

Tourism Secretary (fourth from left) poses for camera with his Korean friendls including U..S Chung,president of Korea Tourism Association (third from left) at a traditional Korean restaurant in downtown Seoul in September




 

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