One of several Philippine Air Force helicopters flies over downtown Zamboanga City in Mindanao where Queen Sofia of Spain visited on Thursday, July 5, 2012. Security was tight during the Queen's visit where she inspected various projects funded by the Spanish government. And Queen Sofia with President Benigno Aquino and Zamboanga Congresswoman Maria Isabelle Climaco. Queen Sofia of Spain and Spanish priest Father Angel Calvo shake hands in Zamboanga City where she visited several projects funded by her government.(Mindanao Examiner Photo/Gil Nartea Photo/Peace Advocates Zamboanga Photo)
ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / July 5, 2012) – Philippine authorities have imposed a tight security on the visit Thursday of Queen Sofia of Spain in the southern port city of Zamboanga on Mindanao Island.
Helicopter gunships were spotted patrolling Zamboanga’s skyline as the Queen visited various sites where the Spanish government funded several projects.
“We are so happy that the Queen has visited Zamboanga and we want to thank the Spanish government for all the support to different developmental projects here,” said Spanish missionary Father Angel Calvo, a peace advocate who heads various nongovernmental organizations in Zamboanga and Basilan province.
The Queen visited Zamboanga despite a travel ban by the Spanish government.
“Very strongly advise against travel to the Southwest and Mid Western Mindanao, including Sulu Archipelago - Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi - to the very high risk of kidnapping and assault that Western citizens are subject, among others. The provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City are in a state of emergency for reasons of political violence, so you should not travel to these places under any circumstances,” according to the warning by the Spanish Embassy in Manila.
“There is threat of terrorist attacks not only in the troubled region of Mindanao but throughout the country including the capital Manila. Crime is a common problem, so it is advisable to travel with caution. There is a risk of kidnapping by terrorists and criminal groups, particularly in parts of Mindanao,” it added.
Manila said its relationship with Spain have steadily grown through the years marked by sustained cooperation in the fields of education, culture, sports, agriculture and fisheries, tourism, energy, health, labor, social security, defence and mutual legal assistance, among others.
Last year, Spain ranked as the Philippines’ 28th largest trading partner with total bilateral trade amounting to $329.6 million. From 2006 to 2010, Spain provided an annual average of €30 million as official development aid. In 2011, Spain’s development assistance to Manila totalled €28.9 million.
Father Calvo said the Queen visited Zamboanga as part of her itinerary on the recommendation of Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Jorge Domecq and to inspect projects funded by the Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarollo.
He said the Queen also inspected the Claretian school where she was welcomed by children.
“The Spanish government has so many projects in Zamboanga, including housing units for the poor, among others,” Father Calvo told the Mindanao Examiner, referring to the housing programs in Katilingban, Kalambuan and Kalinaw which are being run by the nongovernment organizations, the Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance Inc. and Manos Unidas Foundation.
Father Calvo has been living in Basilan and Zamboanga City for the past four decades and it was also his first time to meet the Queen. Journalists here were not allowed by the local government to interview Queen Sofia for still unknown reasons. (Mindanao Examiner)