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'Martial-law extension no cause for concern'.

The country's economic managers and local businessmen are unfazed by the decision of Congress to approve President Duterte's request for a one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia told reporters in a news briefing on Thursday that, if the previous experience of Mindanao with martial law is any indication of how an extension will impact the economy, the country 'has nothing to worry about.'

Pernia said the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) assessed the impact of martial law before and after its imposition in Mindanao and found that, apart from low prices, investments increased.

'I think, if we go by the experience in Marawi, it's probably going to be neutral at worst. So it could boost investor confidence. What happened up to the end of the year seems to be well managed and, as already mentioned, it was more positive than negative, really,' Pernia said. 'With martial law, it's easier to move things because they are really safer from attacks.'

In terms of investments, Neda Undersecretary Rosemarie G. Edillon said there was even a slight uptick after martial law was imposed in May, but this was mainly due to the investments that poured in the Davao region.

'We also looked at the business expectation survey [BES] and the consumer expectation survey [CES]. And, in fact, for the fourth quarter, there was actually an uptick in both CES and more defined in terms of the BES. And the martial-law declaration was not listed among the issues that consumers and businesses identified,' Edillon said. 'We're hoping it will be maintained through out this extension. It's really important that the government and military maintain the high moral ground even if martial law is [in effect],' she added.

'Martial law still needed'

George T. Barcelon, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the implementation of martial law in May was 'instrumental' in the government's bid to liberate Marawi City from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-inspired terrorists.

'Now that Marawi city's rebuilding is about to start, military intelligence and keepers of peace are order presence are still needed. As such to give assurance, extending martial law is in order,' Barcelon said.

'We trust the pronouncement of President Duterte that human rights will be upheld in the whole exercise. I believe investors are likely to have more confidence when there is the assurance of peace and safety,' he added.

Perry Pe of the Management Association of the Philippines said the extension of martial law would not scare away foreign investors. 'What will spook business is if we do nothing. The Fitch upgrade on Philippine bonds is a vote of confidence,' Pe said.

'Business as usual'

Trade and business will go as usual in Mindanao in spite of the extension of martial law for a year in the island, according to the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).

MinDA Secretary Datu Abul Khayr Alonto said the agency supports the extension of military rule in southern Philippines. Congress on Wednesday approved President Duterte's appeal to continue the imposition of martial law in Mindanao for the entire 2018.

'We believe in the pure intent of the President to maintain the high security level in Mindanao, and to prevent another Marawi conflict from happening. It is worth noting that the decisive action of the President to end terrorism in Mindanao once and for all is gradually yielding positive results for the island-region,' Alonto said in a statement.

He added said trade and business remain upbeat in the island in spite of the tight security protocol implemented by government troops. Alonto said a number of businessmen expressed interest to invest in Mindanao.
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Dec 14, 2017
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