Tourism chief urges media to tone down news on extrajudicial killings
BANGKOK — Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo on Wednesday urged the media to “tone down” their coverage of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, saying it was making it hard to sell the Philippines as a tourist destination.
She addressed the same plea to Vice President Leni Robredo, who sent a video message last week to a UN gathering in Vienna denouncing the alleged summary execution of 8,000 Filipinos in the antinarcotics campaign.
“These statements make it hard for us to sell the Philippines, so I hope, we could if possible—this does not only refer to VP Leni but also to the media—let us tone down those references to extrajudicial killings,” Teo told reporters in a press briefing.
Teo, who is accompanying Mr. Duterte on his official visit to Thailand, said she had “great respect” for Robredo but her statement raised security concerns among potential tourists, especially now that the Philippines had become an “an [alternative] destination in Asia.”
She said tour operators abroad were “always” asking her about the issue, citing Asia and Europe as regions where people were particularly concerned.
“I would always say it’s safe in the Philippines,” Teo said. “I would always ask them to come.”
“I hope the statements could be toned down because I am having a hard time selling [the Philippines],” she said.
“In spite of that, I still see more tourists coming to the Philippines, especially from China, Europe and Asia,” she added.
“Help us because you know, it’s really difficult for me to sell the Philippines when talk centers on extrajudicial killings,” she said.
The Philippines, despite picturesque tropical islands and spectacular mountains, has long lagged behind its neighbors as a tourist destination. This is partly due to decades-long Muslim and communist insurgencies, as well as frequent kidnappings of foreigners by Islamic militants.
About 5.9 million tourists visited the Philippines last year, compared with 32.6 million for Thailand.
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