THE Department of Tourism (DoT) said Wednesday it is working to reverse the public perception of Mindanao as a place to be avoided, after President Rodrigo R. Duterte called his home island “lawless” and “violent” last month.

DoT Assistant Secretary Roberto P. Alabado told reporters in a chance interview at the Palace, after an economic briefing, that the DoT is “doubling” its efforts to tell Mindanao’s “real story” from people on the ground.

Efforts have been “doubled because we are working on a perception problem. That’s why we are here to show you what the real story is,” he said.

He added, “We are in a situation where we want to change perceptions by saying what is on the ground.”

Mr. Duterte, in one of his speeches at the Palace last month, said that incidents of “lawlessness” and “violence” in Mindanao have not stopped.

“That’s the problem of Mindanao. Far and wide in between the years, we had so many troubles. Lawless violence, it’s still there…. Mindanao really seems to be a dangerous place still to go around,” the President noted.

He added, “And that is why (we cannot tell tourists) that everything is all right there and you can go around and you will not be waylaid, delikado ang Mindanao (Mindanao is dangerous).”

Asked to reconcile the President’s remarks and the DoT’s efforts, Mr. Alabado said: “There are some safe places… There are places in Mindanao where the advisories are better… In terms of security, we will abide by the directives of the President (for the more dangerous areas).”

He added that the domestic tourism in Mindanao is “very good,” noting that in Davao City alone, hotels are “always fully-booked.”

“So that is a good indicator that business and tourists are going to Davao in Mindanao,” he noted.

“Pagdating sa pronouncements ni Presidente (when it comes to the President’s pronouncements), we always abide, he’s the President, we are just an agency helping him in the area of tourism,” he added. — Arjay L. Balinbin