BUSINESS leaders in Cebu downplayed whatever negative impact the business and tourism communities might feel as a result of reports on the alleged presence of a Korean mafia here.

They, however, called for stricter law enforcement to ensure the province’s safety.

“It’s a cause for concern but we don’t think this will have any effect on business and tourism in Cebu. We have to accept that Cebu is a multi-cultural place, which complements our economic growth,” said Glenn Anthony Soco, president of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He raised the need to strengthen law enforcement to address these so-called “mafia” operations in the country.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Central Visayas has echoed President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement last Saturday night in Davao City that a Korean mafia is operating an illegal drug trade and prostitution ring in Cebu.

The national police force is under scrutiny after the death, in a car parked within Camp Crame, of a Korean national who had been picked up last October 2016 by a police team. President Duterte has apologized for what happened and ordered a crackdown on corruption in the police force.

Edilberto Mendoza Jr., president of the Cebu Association Tour Operators, thinks there might be a decrease in the number of Korean visitors in Cebu because the government might now implement stricter rules on the entry of tourists.

More arrivals

Korea has been Central Visayas’ leading tourist source market for several years. Arrivals from this country as of October 2016 grew by 10.48 percent, from 624,150 in October 2015 to 689,557.

Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president Melanie Ng and Cebu Business Club president Gordon Alan Joseph remained positive that Cebu’s economy will thrive despite these new issues.

“Korean tourism has been good, I believe, so this may not be an issue,” said Joseph.

Ng encouraged more initiatives in increasing tourist arrivals, instead of restricting them.

“We just have to make sure that the authorities regulate and monitor activities to make sure our laws are followed,” said Ng.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) in 2013, the South Korean population in Cebu was estimated to be 25,000 and growing.

Korea is one of the country’s most important sources of tourism receipts. In December 2016, Korean travelers spent some P5.6 billion, more than the combined spending of tourists from the United States and Canada.

At least 143,380 arrivals from Korea were recorded in the same month, up by 6.08 percent from the arrivals in December 2015, according to figures posted Friday on

“As the top source of arrivals, Korea is the first market to surpass 1.4 million arrivals,” with 1,475,081 arrivals in 2016.