THE ongoing bloody war on drugs in the Philippines is hurting tourism numbers and the country’s Tourism Secretary is pinning the blame on the media’s reporting on extrajudicial killings.
Speaking in Thailand during President Rodrigo Duterte’s three-day visit to the kingdom, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo on Wednesday urged the media to “tone down” its coverage on the slaying of drug suspects, which have scared away foreigners.
Teo insisted the Philippines was a safe destination to visit but journalists were making it harder to promote tourism to the country due to their focus on the killings, according to AFP (via The Straits Times).
“Help us because you know, it’s really difficult for me to sell the Philippines, especially when extrajudicial killings becomes the topic,” Teo was quoted as telling Filipino reporters.
Teo said tour operators in Asia and Europe were particularly concerned about the issue and constantly question her on the situation.
“I would always say it’s safe in the Philippines,” she said.
“To the media, please tone down a little the extrajudicial killing (reports),” she added.
The Philippines received 5.9 million tourist arrivals last year while Thailand saw 32.6 million, according to AFP.
Filipino vice president Leni Robredo, who recently became vocal in her criticism of Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, said last week that more than 7,000 people have been killed in summary executions as part of the president’s crackdown on drug dealers since last July.
Some 2,500 people have been killed in operations, during which policemen claim they fired in self-defence.
She said the killings have led to a culture of fear where people were afraid of arbitrary arrests and possible violence at the hands of the Philippines’ often overzealous men in blue.
She added many from impoverished communities in the Southeast Asian country have stopped going to the police to report crimes.
“Some of those have told us normally when there is crime, they go to police. Now they don’t know where to turn to,” she said.
“We agree our people deserve nothing less than a safe environment.”
Duterte previously stated millions of Filipinos were “slaves” to drugs and that he would be happy to “slaughter” three million drug addicts like Hitler killed Jews.
Human rights groups have accused Duterte of committing crimes against humanity by inciting the killings, and have called for international investigations against the leader, who now faces prospect of impeachment and an international court case over the thousands of drug-related killings.