Philippine anti-drug war takes toll on tourism, economy

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The hardline approach of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte towards drug dealers and consumers in his country that has resulted in more than 8,000 deaths since he took office last November is deterring tourists to visit the island nation, Philippine tourism secretary Wanda Teo noted at a visit to Thailand earlier this week accompanying Duterte.

But rather than suggesting the President may change his course, she complained that the media would focus too much on the extrajudicial killings of drug suspects which would make the Philippines a “hard sell,” asking baffled journalists to “tone down” their reporting on the issue.

“Help us because you know, it’s really difficult for me to sell the Philippines, especially when extrajudicial killings becomes the topic. To the media, please tone down a little the extrajudicial killing [reports],” she said.

She also complained that tour operators abroad were “always” asking her about the issue, naming Asia and Europe as regions where people were particularly concerned.

The Philippines welcomed 5.9 million tourist arrivals last year and targets ten million in the mid-term, but this seems out of the question with bloody police raids at every corner, whether reported or not.

Duterte justified his rough stance by stating that 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 the prospect of impeachment and an international court case over the thousands of drug-related killings.

At the same time, analysts say that Duterte’s strongman policy probably spins his voters, but doesn’t impress investors and financial traders. The peso is down eight per cent to the US dollar since he took office under the weight of an aggressive and distracted administration with little leeway for economic reforms.

Apart from more than 8,000 body bags and counting, there is nothing much delivered by the current Philippine administration – no progress on tackling the country’s other problems, namely reducing widespread  poverty and income inequality, increasing job growth or improving infrastructure. 

No tax reforms and no tax collection enforcement, no strategies against rampant corruption, no clear mining policy to tap vast stores of national resources and doing something about productivity-killing traffic in Manila and other urban areas..

With the peso at ten-year lows, it’s a clear sign that not just a growing number of tourists, but also investors doubt Duterte’s model of governing the Philippines.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

The hardline approach of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte towards drug dealers and consumers in his country that has resulted in more than 8,000 deaths since he took office last November is deterring tourists to visit the island nation, Philippine tourism secretary Wanda Teo noted at a visit to Thailand earlier this week accompanying Duterte.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The hardline approach of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte towards drug dealers and consumers in his country that has resulted in more than 8,000 deaths since he took office last November is deterring tourists to visit the island nation, Philippine tourism secretary Wanda Teo noted at a visit to Thailand earlier this week accompanying Duterte.

But rather than suggesting the President may change his course, she complained that the media would focus too much on the extrajudicial killings of drug suspects which would make the Philippines a “hard sell,” asking baffled journalists to “tone down” their reporting on the issue.

“Help us because you know, it’s really difficult for me to sell the Philippines, especially when extrajudicial killings becomes the topic. To the media, please tone down a little the extrajudicial killing [reports],” she said.

She also complained that tour operators abroad were “always” asking her about the issue, naming Asia and Europe as regions where people were particularly concerned.

The Philippines welcomed 5.9 million tourist arrivals last year and targets ten million in the mid-term, but this seems out of the question with bloody police raids at every corner, whether reported or not.

Duterte justified his rough stance by stating that 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 the prospect of impeachment and an international court case over the thousands of drug-related killings.

At the same time, analysts say that Duterte’s strongman policy probably spins his voters, but doesn’t impress investors and financial traders. The peso is down eight per cent to the US dollar since he took office under the weight of an aggressive and distracted administration with little leeway for economic reforms.

Apart from more than 8,000 body bags and counting, there is nothing much delivered by the current Philippine administration – no progress on tackling the country’s other problems, namely reducing widespread  poverty and income inequality, increasing job growth or improving infrastructure. 

No tax reforms and no tax collection enforcement, no strategies against rampant corruption, no clear mining policy to tap vast stores of national resources and doing something about productivity-killing traffic in Manila and other urban areas..

With the peso at ten-year lows, it’s a clear sign that not just a growing number of tourists, but also investors doubt Duterte’s model of governing the Philippines.

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