Tourism chief Teo asks Robredo, media to ‘tone down’ statements on killings

Pia Ranada

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Tourism chief Teo asks Robredo, media to ‘tone down’ statements on killings
Strong statements against extrajudicial killings in the country are making it difficult for the tourism department to promote the Philippines, says DOT chief Wanda Teo

BANGKOK, Thailand – Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo appealed to Vice President Leni Robredo and the media to “tone down” in its reporting of extrajudicial killings to make it easier for her to promote Philippine tourism.

“I have a great respect for VP (Vice President) Leni. Philippines is now becoming an alternate destination in Asia and Europe. Eh ‘yung mga statements na ganoon, nahihirapan kami i-sell ang Philippines (Statements like that make it hard for us to sell the Philippines),” said Teo on Wednesday, March 22.

She was speaking at a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand, on the last day of President Rodrigo Duterte’s official visit here.

“This does not only refer to VP Leni but also to media. Medyo i-tone down natin ‘yung EJK (Let’s tone down statements on extrajudicial killings) because I’m always asked wherever I go, even in Asia and Europe, ‘Totoo ba ito?‘ (Is this true?) and I would say it’s safe in the Philippines and I would always ask them to come,” she added.

Teo had been asked if Robredo’s video message for a United Nations meeting, where she spoke of summary killings being linked to the drug war, has affected the country’s tourism industry.

She said the effect can be seen in how tour operators from various countries have asked her if it’s safe to travel to the Philippines.

Thus, Teo said it would help if media and officials like Robredo softened their statements on the summary killings of suspected drug personalities.

“I hope those statements can be toned down because we are having a hard time selling the Philippines. Just help us sell the Philippines,” said Teo in a mix of English and Filipino.

The Tourism Secretary admitted, however, that there has actually been an increase in tourists traveling to the Philippines.

“Inspite of that, I still see that we have more tourists coming to the Philippines, especially in China, Europe, and Asia,” she said.

The Duterte administration’s drug war has so far been linked to the deaths of over 7,000 persons. Of this, some 2,500 are suspected drug personalities killed in police operations while 3,600 are victims in cases of “deaths under investigation.”

The Philippine police said it has finished investigating the deaths of 922 individuals. – 

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.