CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The imposition of martial law in Mindanao has not deterred people from visiting its tourist destinations as well as witnessing extreme sporting events held in Northern Mindanao recently.
This was the assessment of Maria Celeste Andres, Department of Tourism-10 (DOT-10) special project operations officer, who said that the conduct of an off-road, motocross and triathlon races were considered successful despite the implementation of martial law in the island.
Days before martial law was extended in Mindanao, Lanao del Norte hosted the final legs of “Lanorteman 2018” and the Mindanao-wide Motocross Series, on Dec. 8-9.
The Lanorteman is a triathlon competition participated in by triathletes and the Motocross Series gathered bikers from around the country.
Also on Dec. 8-9, another major sporting tournament, the Philippine Tough Truck Challenge XVIII (PTTC), was held in Barangay Poblacion, Libona, Bukidnon.
Organized by the National Association of Filipino Off-Roaders (Nasfor), the PTTC was participated in by off-roading enthusiasts and professionals from all over the country, and a team from Malaysia.
The huge turn-out of spectators and participants in these extreme sports is a sign that the region, as well as the whole of Mindanao, has welcomed its fair share of tourists despite the imposition of martial law and the perceived unstable peace and order situation in some parts of the island, Andres said Maria Celeste Andres.
On December 12, both the Senate and the House of Representatives approved the extension of martial law in Mindanao, on Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s request, until the end of next year.
It was first declared on May 23, 2017 when the months-long fighting between armed militants and government forces began in Marawi City. The city was declared liberated from the extremists on October 17, 2017.
The holding of such sporting events, Andres said, is a “good indication that it’s really safe and we have this kind of activities that other people should come in.”
“We are still in the state of martial law, but still people are coming in,” she said adding that visitors to the region have witnessed the situation and how they can go visit places and watch events without fear.
The promotion of sports tourism, which DOT-10 launched this June, along with other tourism packages, Andres said, is a way of debunking the notion that Mindanao is unsafe for tourists due to rampant violence being perpetrated by rebels and extremists.
The Lanorteman and the motocross tournaments are regular sporting events in Lanao del Norte, while the PTTC has made a comeback in the region after several legs were held in other parts of the country.
Lanao del Norte has been hailed as the “motocross capital of the Philippines” as it hosted motocross races in the past years, usually held in Barangay Sagadan, Tubod town.
According to the Lanao del Norte provincial information office, hundreds of extreme bikers in the country including the famous Visayas Riders entertained the crowd with their death-defying stunts during the Supercross on the first day and Motocross on the second day.
For the Lanorteman, more than 300 triathletes from other regions have registered for this event, including elite racers from the Philippine Triathlon Team and Rider Omega Tri of Cebu, the information office said.
Meanwhile, Ramon Toong, current Nasfor president, said the group chose to hold this year’s racing season’s final leg in Bukidnon because of its natural terrain.
The racing site consisted of two tracks complete with obstacles such as trenches, mud pit and table top.
Toong said it’s the also the first time that a team from other country had competed in the race.
During the pre-race press conference, Toong said they are planning to establish a racing circuit and off-road parks in the country.
“This is at par with our desire to establish permanent race tracks in strategic locations which we feel will not only help out racing events but will also draw attention to the locality and bolster a potential for local sports tourism,” Toong said in his State of Nasfor Address published in the latest issue of the association’s official magazine.
However, this plan is still on the drawing board as issues with the Land Transportation Office on vehicle modification are still being ironed out.
“That’s an old rule. You can’t stop people from modifying [their vehicle],” he said, adding that off-road racing lacks the government support and promotion as compared to other motorsports.
“This is one area where we can excel,” Toong said, referring to off-road racing.
In fact, Toong said, off-roaders are also active in helping in relief missions and in responding to disasters in their respective localities.(davaotoday.com)