MANILA, Philippines (Updated 1:01 p.m.) — Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo on Wednesday appealed to members of the media to “tone down” reports on so-called extrajudicial killings to help boost tourism in the country.
Teo said the Philippines is becoming an alternate destination to Asia and Europe but negative reports such as those on killings make it harder for her agency to entice visitors.
The official cited statements like those of Vice President Leni Robredo to a United Nations forum criticizing the war on drugs as detrimental to tourism targets.
“So I hope, kung puwede, not only to Vice President Leni but also to the media to please tone down extrajudicial killings [reports] because I’m always asked whenever I go even in Asia and Europe, ‘totoo ba ito?’,” Teo said, answering a journalist’s query at a televised news briefing with Cabinet members in Bangkok, Thailand.
Teo, who was among the officials who joined President Rodrigo Duterte in his trip to Thailand, said she always tells tourists to come to the Philippines and see for themselves that it is a safe country to visit.
“Sana i-tone down na lang ‘yung mga statement na gano’n kasi nahihirapan talaga ako mag-sell. Help us na lang sell the Philippines,” Teo added.
Despite the reports on killings, Teo keeps the optimism as more tourists are still entering the Philippines from China, Europe and Asia.
She also appealed to the media to help the Department of Tourism promote the Philippines as an attractive destination.
There are no signs, however, that there is a letup in killings in Duterte’s campaign against narcotics. The Philippine National Police estimates more than 2,000 individuals so far killed in enforcement operations alone, claiming that suspects were shot down after endangering lives of police officers.
Human rights observers, however, reported police involvement in countless other vigilante killings linked to the administration’s drug war. — Video report by Efigenio Toledo IV