China on travel warning vs PH: ‘Advice, not order’

Paterno Esmaquel II
China on travel warning vs PH: ‘Advice, not order’
China's travel warning affects Philippine tourism as Chinese arrivals in the Philippines declined by 7% in 2014

MANILA, Philippines – China maintained its travel advisory against the Philippines, but stressed it wants more tourists to visit the country with which it has a dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

“There is an advisory, but an advisory means a kind of advice. It’s not an order,” Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua told reporters Tuesday, March 4, on the sidelines of an event at the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs. (READ: China to Philippines: ‘We’re destined to be friends’)

Asked if China will lift its “travel ban any time soon,” Zhang clarified it is “not a travel ban per se,” but didn’t answer the question categorically.

He explained that China issued the travel advisory “because some other tourists got injured or got shot, and so people in China worry about the security situation here.”

China issued its travel warning against the Philippines in September 2014. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised Chinese citizens “not to travel to the Philippines for the time being…given the worsened security situation” in the Southeast Asian country.

China released this statement in 2014 a week after Philippine authorities arrested 3 men over an alleged plot to bomb the Chinese embassy, Chinese businesses, and Manila’s international airport. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said “criminal gangs” in the Philippines had targeted Chinese citizens and businesses.

The alleged bomb plot was linked to the dispute over the West Philippine Sea. This territorial and maritime row, which heated up in 2012, brought the relationship between the Philippines and China to its lowest point in 4 decades. (READ: China defends experts in Philippine power firm

‘Hurting’ budget carriers

Eventually, China’s travel warning affected Philippine tourism. 

The Philippines’ Department of Tourism said the number of Chinese tourists in the Philippines declined by 7.37% in 2014. Only 394,951 Chinese tourists visited the Southeast Asian country in 2014, as opposed to 426,352 in 2013.

China, however, remains the Philippines’ 4th biggest source of foreign tourists.

Marianne Hontiveros, chairperson of the low-cost carrier AirAsia Zest, pointed out that China’s travel warning “is hurting” budget carriers “very much.”

Hontiveros explained that the advisory obliges Chinese tour operators to suspend offering travel services to the Philippines.

She said the Chinese government “needs assurance that their nationals are safe in the Philippines.”

Confirming this statement, Zhao said: “We are glad to see the authorities of the Philippine government have promised to make sure they will create a better environment for foreign tourists to come….We certainly would like to see more Chinese tourists coming over to the Philippines.” – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.