Philippine officials downplay safety risks as travel warnings mount

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Despite a rising number of travel warnings after violent attacks in popular tourist spots in the Philippines and ecurity concerns over mass killings in the country’s current anti-drug crusade, Philippine tourism officials keep saying that the country was “still safe” for tourists.

Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo declared the Philippines “a safe place to visit” despite negative travel advisories issued by several embassies, including the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and South Korea, warning of terror attacks following reports on the alleged presence of the Abu Sayyaf and serious terrorist activities in major destinations such as Bohol, Cebu and other places in Central Visayas and other incidents in the recent past such as the gruesome beheading of foreigners by Islamist terrorists in Mindanao.

The excessive extrajudicial killing of drug suspects across the country compounds the problem, as did the the kidnapping and murder of a South Korean businessman by Philippine anti-narcotics police last October, which dampened enthusiasm of South Koreans, who are the Philippines’ largest source of tourists, to visit the country.

Reportedly, hundreds of Japanese and Korean nationals bound for Cebu recently cancelled their trips due to the terrorist threat. There was also a report that a large German group cancelled hotel reservations for May.

But Teo said she will write a letter to her counterparts in other countries to ask them to lift the adverse travel advisories and to issue a statement saying the Philippines is a “safe country.” She said that the country’s tourism industry is “affected every time” when there are travel advisories and if something untoward happens to foreign nationals here, and expressed confidence that the travel advisories will be “forgotten in due time.”

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella expressed it slightly more prudent: “We understand the concern of foreign governments over their nationals. However, we assure everyone that the Philippines remains a safe place to work, to conduct business or simply to have fun,” he said, adding that “while we urge continued mindfulness of one’s surroundings, it is still more fun in the Philippines.”

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Despite a rising number of travel warnings after violent attacks in popular tourist spots in the Philippines and ecurity concerns over mass killings in the country's current anti-drug crusade, Philippine tourism officials keep saying that the country was "still safe" for tourists. Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo declared the Philippines "a safe place to visit" despite negative travel advisories issued by several embassies, including the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and South Korea, warning of terror attacks following reports on the alleged presence of the Abu Sayyaf and serious terrorist activities in major destinations such as Bohol, Cebu and...

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Despite a rising number of travel warnings after violent attacks in popular tourist spots in the Philippines and ecurity concerns over mass killings in the country’s current anti-drug crusade, Philippine tourism officials keep saying that the country was “still safe” for tourists.

Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo declared the Philippines “a safe place to visit” despite negative travel advisories issued by several embassies, including the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and South Korea, warning of terror attacks following reports on the alleged presence of the Abu Sayyaf and serious terrorist activities in major destinations such as Bohol, Cebu and other places in Central Visayas and other incidents in the recent past such as the gruesome beheading of foreigners by Islamist terrorists in Mindanao.

The excessive extrajudicial killing of drug suspects across the country compounds the problem, as did the the kidnapping and murder of a South Korean businessman by Philippine anti-narcotics police last October, which dampened enthusiasm of South Koreans, who are the Philippines’ largest source of tourists, to visit the country.

Reportedly, hundreds of Japanese and Korean nationals bound for Cebu recently cancelled their trips due to the terrorist threat. There was also a report that a large German group cancelled hotel reservations for May.

But Teo said she will write a letter to her counterparts in other countries to ask them to lift the adverse travel advisories and to issue a statement saying the Philippines is a “safe country.” She said that the country’s tourism industry is “affected every time” when there are travel advisories and if something untoward happens to foreign nationals here, and expressed confidence that the travel advisories will be “forgotten in due time.”

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella expressed it slightly more prudent: “We understand the concern of foreign governments over their nationals. However, we assure everyone that the Philippines remains a safe place to work, to conduct business or simply to have fun,” he said, adding that “while we urge continued mindfulness of one’s surroundings, it is still more fun in the Philippines.”

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