Palace unfazed by Chinese tour suspensions-A A +A
Friday, May 11, 2012
MANILA (Updated 2:28 p.m.) – Malacañang said the news that several Chinese agencies are suspending tour packages to the country will not deter the Philippines to promote the country to other markets outside from China.
Although presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the Palace has yet to receive confirmation from the Department of Tourism whether the news is true, he said, "But if it is true, it is unfortunate but what we will do is we just have to work harder on the other markets that we have."
The Palace official also belittled the supposed cancellation of tours, noting that there are even more Filipino tourists going to China than Chinese visiting the Philippines.
China was accounted as the top four market of tourists in the Philippines in 2011, according to the Department of Tourism yearend report.
From the 3.9 million visitor arrivals in 2011, Korea topped the list with 925,204 visitor turn-out, followed by USA (624,527), Japan (375,496), and China (243,137).
News of the suspension of the Chinese tours came a day before the planned protests by Filipinos at various Chinese embassies worldwide against China's intrusion into disputed territory in the South China Sea, which the Philippines refers as West Philippine Sea.
Lacierda denied that the Aquino government is the brain behind the anti-China rally, although some of its participants are allies of the administration.
"We'd like to assure our Chinese friends that the Philippine government did not have the hand there. It was the decision taken by private citizens who feel out of patriotism that they have to speak on the issue," he said.
"Again, our Constitution clearly protects freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly. So our only request to the people who are going to conduct their rally today – it is to encourage them to do it peacefully and to do it in a manner that will not disrupt the peace and order," he added.
Western Samar Representative Mel Senen Sarmiento, vice chairman of the House committee on national defense and security, meanwhile, said, "I believe this matter is temporary and once the situation resumes to normalcy again, we can secure the Chinese market and other foreign tourists."
Ang Kasangga party-list Representative Teodorico Haresco, for his part, said the travel suspension would deny the Philippines millions of dollars in potential tourism revenues.
Haresco warned that the Chinese government might even go further by imposing a ban on Filipino overseas workers, including those working in Hong Kong and Macau.
Despite the protests, Malacañang assured the safety of Chinese nationals in the country.
"And sa totoo lang ang dami naman nating mga Chinese dito (there are lots of Chinese here), you wouldn't know if they are from mainland or from the Philippines. We have a very good relation in terms of cultural exchange and our relations with China have been very good on a cultural level," said Lacierda, who is a half-Chinese.
On the reported implementation of strict rules of China on Philippine fruits export, Lacierda said the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade Industry will be having discussions with their counterparts in China regarding the matter.
"It is a sanitary issue with respect to our banana exports to China and therefore it is being addressed as a technical issue by both officials, regulatory agencies of both countries," he said.
The Philippine government is putting forth a new diplomatic initiative to resolve the month-long standoff over the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, which is located 124 nautical miles from Zambales province and 472 nautical miles from China's nearest landmass in Hainan province, in the South China Sea.
Both Sarmiento and Zambales Representative Mitos Magsaysay supported this move, saying "cooler heads" should prevail at this point of the territorial dispute.
"Right now, all we need is a cooling-off period. The government should continue holding diplomatic dialogues and cease from issuing provocative statements and freeze future protest actions that may further heighten the tensions and jeopardize a peaceful resolution of the conflict," Sarmiento said.
"Let cooler heads prevail at this point. Going up in arms and fueling the word war over the issue will achieve nothing but cause panic and chaos among citizens of both countries," Magsaysay said.
Earlier Friday, Senator Loren Legarda said engaging in a shooting war or any form of violence to resolve the impasse between China and the Philippines over Scarborough shoal would only compromise peace and security in Asia Pacific region.
Legarda is hoping the bilateral relations between the two countries will not be affected after the Senate has recently approved two agreements with China -- the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) and the Consular Agreement.
The MLAT provides a legal framework for cooperation by States in the investigation and prosecution of criminal offenses and in legal and judicial proceedings related to criminal matters.
On the other hand, the consular agreement will enable the Philippine government, through consular missions, to reach out and extend immediate and appropriate protection to Filipinos in China who are being detained, arrested or deprived of freedom.
"We must concentrate on areas that unite us, instead of issues that divide us. Commerce, trade, investments, culture, education, combating climate change--these are concerns that China and the Philippines, and all of us in the Asia Pacific, should focus on," Legarda said.
Negotiations have been resumed on Wednesday night, nearly a month since both countries last talked on the issue on April 16.
But the Philippines is quite certain that it will elevate the matter to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, banking on a claim that the shoal is within the 200 miles exclusive economic zone based on international law.
China, which is 472 miles away, used historical data to back up its claim but maps dating back to the 18th century would show that the shoal was referred to by American and British explorers as part of the Philippine archipelago.
The shoal is said to be sitting on vast gas deposits and marine resources. (Jill Beltran/Kathrina Alvarez/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)