BANGKOK, Thailand – The Departments of Tourism and Foreign Affairs yesterday asked Vice President Leni Robredo to tone down her vocal criticisms on the alleged extrajudicial killings in the country before the international community.
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said Robredo’s statements make it difficult to sell the Philippines to other countries.
“I have a great respect for VP Leni pero ‘yung mga statements na ganoon, nahihirapan kaming i-sell ang Philippines,” Teo said.
“So I hope, kung pwede, it’s not only for VP Leni but also to the media, to please medyo i-tone down natin yung extrajudicial killings,” Teo added.
According to Teo, since the Philippines is now becoming an alternate tourist destination for Asians and Europeans, those kinds of statements are making her job more difficult.
She added that tour operators from everywhere she goes, particularly in Asia and Europe, ask her if it is true that more than 7,000 people are killed in the Philippines.
“’Pag napag-usapan na ’yung extrajudicial killings I’m always asked by tour operators if it is true, I would say, ‘It’s safe there, I would invite you to come to the Philippines and see for yourself,’” she said.
Teo said that despite the doubts expressed by tour operators abroad, more tourists still come to the Philippines, especially those from China, the rest of Asia, and Europe.
“Help us sell the Philippines,” Teo appealed to Robredo.
Foreign Affairs acting Secretary Enrique Manalo also asked the Vice President to tone down her criticisms on the alleged EJKs.
Manalo said he has seen no changes in the Philippines diplomatic relations with other countries despite her statements that he said, may still have an effect.
“Wala naman kaming nakikitang pagbabago, our relations with other countries are still very good. I haven’t seen a change in that,” he said.
“In fact dito lang sa visit ni Presidente dito sa Thailand and Myanmar, I think we have really strengthened the bilateral relationship,” he added.
According to Manalo, a lot of countries are now eagerly awaiting the Philippines’ ASEAN chairmanship, assuring that the country’s relations with other nations “have never been better.”
Robredo had criticized the over 7,000 alleged cases of extrajudicial killings related to Duterte’s war against drugs before the annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs recently.
Aside from the statements on the alleged EJKs issued by Robredo, Teo said that another challenge that she faces when selling the Philippines to other countries is the high hotel rates.
According to Teo, the Philippines is always being compared to Bangkok when it comes to hotel rates, one of the reasons why Thailand has a booming tourism sector.
The Tourism Secretary said that when Thailand is facing a crisis, they drop hotel rates, practically giving it for free, so tourist would come to Thailand and see the issue for themselves. (Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos)