WHILE some sectors have criticized the body count in the government’s war on drugs and crime, some tourism stakeholders believe the stand helps promote the country as a safer destination for foreign tourists.
“The fact that crime rate is down by at least 40 percent should be reassuring enough that the Philippines today is becoming safer and safer to visit,” said tourism advocate Jonathan Jay Aldeguer of the Islands Group.
“Now how the local and international media interprets drug-related killings will be critical. Right now, we are getting mixed reviews abroad. Generally, however, I feel that peace and order will be more evident under this administration in the next few months and will surely be a big boost to tourism,” he added.
Efren Belarmino, general manager of Plantation Bay Resort and Spa, said the new administration’s war against crime will have a positive effect in attracting more tourists to visit, as it paints a picture that the Philippines is a safe place.
“Safety and security are important for tourists when choosing a holiday destination,” said Belarmino.
The number of crimes recorded last July across the country dropped by about 49 percent compared to last year, according to the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Crime volume in the first seven months of the year went down by 9.8 percent to 50,817, from 56,339 in the same period last year.
War on drugs
The Duterte administration’s war on crime earned criticism over the spate of extrajudicial killings in the country sparked by its intensified campaign against illegal drugs.
“Somehow these extrajudicial killings have an impact on international tourism. Killings, no matter how good the intention, always leave a negative impression,” said Cebu Association of Tour Operators (Cato) president Edilberto Mendoza Jr.
Cato is working with the Department of Tourism (DOT) to divert the attention of the international community from extrajudicial killings to other major events soon to happen in the Philippines.
One of these is the Miss Universe pageant next year, where Cebu will get to host the swimwear competition.
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo last Friday downplayed the effect of these killings on the country’s tourism promotion.
She told reporters she’d rather focus on campaigning for more tourists to visit to the Philippines than dwell on such issues, knowing that cases like these are not isolated to the country.
“There are terrorism activities happening in other countries,” said Teo.
The DOT targets to welcome six million foreign tourists by the end of 2016. It hopes to add one million foreign arrivals per year until 2022.