Tourism competition drives Thai paper to brand PH as ‘land of COVID-19’ – Palace
MANILA, Philippines — A Thai newspaper’s headline supposedly branding the Philippines as “land of COVID-19” was driven by the fierce tourism competition between the two Southeast Asian neighbors, Malacañang said Wednesday.
According to Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, the statement made by a local newspaper, Thai Rath, is “motivated” by the Thai government’s struggle to woo tourists amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We are fierce competitors with Thailand when it comes to tourism. I’m sure that their statement that we are the land of COVID is also motivated by the fact that they are struggling to invite people to come to visit Thailand again,” Roque said in an interview over CNN Philippines’ The Source.
“That’s the context by which we should listen to this comment coming from our ASEAN neighbors. We are the closest of friends but we are also the closest competitors as far as economic interests are a concern because we’re dealing with the exact same commodities and in the case of Thailand, it’s tourism in particular,” he added.
In 2019, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was reportedly able to attract a total of 133.1 million tourists. Thailand topped the region with over 39 million foreign tourist arrivals while the Philippines is at the 5th spot with 8 million arrivals.
The Philippine Embassy in Bangkok earlier expressed dissatisfaction over Thai Rath, which referred to the Philippines as the “land of COVID-19” in an article that reported on the arrival of 165 Filipino teachers to be assigned in private schools there.
The article came after the Philippines topped Southeast Asia in terms of total COVID-19 caseload, which currently stands at 139,538.
But the Palace official insisted that the Philippines is actually doing well considering its limited resources, pointing out again that the country now has the highest testing capacity in the entire region.
“We now have the highest testing conducted in Southeast Asia and although I’m not sure if we’re the highest in Asia now, we have exceeded the testing of South Korea and Japan,” he said.
In his regular Palace press briefing Tuesday, Roque appealed for understanding over the newspaper’s headline.
“Wala po kasing kalayaan ng malayang pamamahayag at pananalita dyan sa Thailand. ‘Pag pinulaan mo yung hari, pupuwede kang makulong. Sa tingin ko po, dahil marami silang hindi pupuwedeng pulaan sa Thailand, pinulaan na lang nila tayo,” Harry Roque said in an online briefing.
(There’s no freedom of the press and of speech in Thailand. If you criticize their king, you may be put in jail. In my opinion, since they cannot criticize Thailand, they just opted to criticize us.)
“Intindihin na lang po natin ‘yan. Tayo naman dito sa Pilipinas, alam natin ang kahalagahan ng malayang pananalita. Tanggapin na lang po natin yan bilang input sa malayang merkado ng ideas,” he added.
(Let’s just understand them. We here in the Philippines know the importance of freedom of speech. Let’s just accept that as an input on the free market of ideas.)
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