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Campbell's murder haunts Mt. Province’s tourism industry

April 4, 2009 4:23pm

BAYOMBONG, Philippines – Mountain Province is still reeling from the effects of the 2007 murder of American Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell in Banaue, Ifugao.

Campbell was killed by Juan Donald Duntugan, then a 25-year-old native of Benguet.

According to the Army’s 5th Infantry Division public affairs officer, 1st Lieutenant Loucel Linejan, the provincial government of Mt. Province has requested a temporary news blackout about a recent clash between government troops and guerrillas of the communist New People’s Army.

Unnamed provincial officials reportedly made the request following the celebration of an annual religious festival held in the capital town, Bonto, last March. The festival is one of the major tourist drawers in the province.

Linejan said the officials have admitted that the high-profile killing of Campbell, which attracted international attention, has severely affected the province’s tourism industry.

Campbell’s brutal murder was followed by another killing a few months later involving a 22-year-old suspect, James Dinanghay, who “accidentally" shot Marvin Osao in the back using an assault rifle. The victim was reportedly pacifying the suspect who was, at the time, under the influence of alcohol and was threatening to shoot passing vehicles.

Osao was a young pastor from the Pentecostal Congregation based in Ifugao province.

The recent revelation from the officials validated suspicions that Mt. Province’s major industry, which is tourism, has not really recovered from the negative effect of the Julia Campbell incident.

Tourism and provincial officials from neighboring Ifugao province have also denied from previous media interviews that their tourism industry was adversely affected by the twin crimes.

However, Gov. Teodoro Baguilat has since launched several successful livelihood programs for Ifugao communities, which were aimed at unleashing the local’s entrepreneurial talents. The programs were staunchly supported by the natives who said that there are more to Ifugao than tourism and mountain farming.

Meanwhile, the Army reported that the recent firefight took place on March 31 in Mount Batu in Barangay Mainit, Bontoc, Mt. Province between troops from the Army’s 52nd Division Reconnaissance Co., led by a 2nd Lt. Cabanas, and an undetermined number of rebels wearing fatigue uniforms and red headbands.

Linejan said the encounter started at 9 a.m. and ended at 3 p.m. A lone slightly wounded soldier was recorded on the government side.

“We were not able to determine if there were any casualties from the rebels since they are used to carrying their wounded or dead comrade, besides, they scattered from different directions when the firefight started," said Lintejan.

Additional troops from the 5th ID in Camp Melchor dela Cruz were deployed in Mt. Province particularly in Benguet, to assure the continuity of peace in the area and safety of residents especially tourists who are expected to arrive during the summer season. - Floro Taguinod, GMANews.TV
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