Interior Secretary, military: Bohol 'well-fortified' for ASEAN meetings despite clash

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 18) — Bohol is the safest province in the country now, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) said, ahead of an ASEAN trade officials' two-day meeting a week after a clash between Abu Sayyaf bandits and law enforcement there that left 10 dead.

"(Bohol) might as well be considered a well-fortified and most secure place in the country right now," said Catalino Cuy, DILG officer-in-charge and chair of the security committee of the National Organizing Committee of the summit and related meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Some 200 ASEAN trade officials are set to attend the Regional Economic Partnership Trade Negotiating Committee meetings from April 19 to 21 at the Hennan Resort in the popular tourist destination of Panglao island in Bohol.

International delegates have confirmed their participation in the trade meetings in Panglao, Foreign Affairs spokesperson Rob Bolivar said Monday. Panglao is 73 kilometers south of the town of Inabanga, where the clash took place.

The assurance of security was reiterated by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla.

"We have dealt with this threat decisively and it won't escalate," he told CNN Philippines' "The Source" on Tuesday.

Four government forces and six bandits were killed in the firefight on April 11, including Abu Sayyaf leader Muammar Askali, also known as "Abu Rami."

Related: Notorious Abu Sayyaf member among 6 bandits killed in Bohol firefight

Padilla's statement comes as a "special travel advisory" surfaced on Tuesday from South Korea's Foreign Ministry banning its nationals from traveling to Bohol from April 13 to 23.

"A special travel advisory is tantamount to the travel-alert level of 'Red Alert (Travel Restricted),' which calls for canceling or postponing if possible the plan to visit the designated area, or leaving the area unless there are urgent matters to attend to," the ministry said on its website in the bulletin dated April 5, days before the April 11 clash.

There are approximately 90,000 Koreans residing in the country. The Philippines has received over 154,000 tourists from Korea for January 2017.

Padilla said he understood the South Koreans' concern.

"It's a right of Korea to issue this out, knowing that among the largest number of tourists [who] come to the Philippines are Koreans. Be that as it may, late as it is, there is assurance that has come from government... everything can go back to normal," Padilla told CNN Philippines.

On April 26 to 29, Manila will play host to the 30th ASEAN Summit to be attended by leaders of the member countries.

About 4,000 personnel from the Philippine National Police, AFP, emergency response units, and related agencies will be deployed during the ASEAN Summit.