This may come as a shock to a large number of Filipinos after seeing the uproar after VP Robredo played the video to the UN citing government driven summary killings in the Philippines. But this act has done very little to tarnish the international reputation of the Philippines.
She has been called a traitor, and embarrassment to the country and someone who is deliberately trying to make the Philippines look bad. Whether this is true or not ignores the whole cause and effect of the current international view of the Philippines.
Any negative attention the country has received is because of one person – President Duterte.
There is one simple equation that sums up the biggest (if not the only) influence over the international community:
President threatens lives
Thousands of dead people
Damaged reputation of the Philippines
You can add all the context you like around this to justify whether the course of action is right, or who is responsible for the deaths, that Duterte is shaking the trees to disrupt the drug trade etc. etc.
The fact is that none of it matters on an international stage.
Senator Hontiveros was recently criticized by OFWs in Sydney for spreading malicious information about the country, and undermining the OFW’s efforts to prove the Filipino’s worth in the international community. But they are looking at this through a Filipinos eyes.
The internal political battles are irrelevant to an outsider looking in. Do you think that your average foreigner knows who Robredo, Trillianes or De Lima are? They don’t. They don’t even know your President’s name. The mere mention of the Philippines will get you a “isn’t that where that nutbag president is?”
All VP Robredo did was tell the UN about something that the world has been talking about for months anyway. Yet people saw this as a gross misrepresentation of what is happening in the country, and that claims were baseless.
Do these people really think that the internal operations of these initiatives are clean? Whether you support the initiatives of the government or not it would be naïve to think that wrongful deaths, planted evidence, police initiated EJKs are not happening.
It is for the same reason that I have been talking about here since day one. A systemically corrupt organization is in charge, and the president has given them the green light to do as they please. There was no attempt to raise the standard of policing before the initiative started.
Even since serious problems have been identified nothing has changed. So the body count will continue to pile up, the president will continue making public threats, and the number of innocent people caught up in it all will climb… and politicians will continue to not care.
This is what is bringing negativity to OFWs. Nothing else, and it comes from one man.
An article appeared on an Australian news website news.com.au reporting on comments from the Philippines tourism secretary saying that the media should “tone down” their coverage of the drug war as it is hurting tourism. The logic here is again bizarre. Not sure if he knows how the media works, but as long as there are deaths there will be headlines. These are sure to stay front and centre of the news as long as Duterte makes bold public threats to kill thousands.
When it comes to attracting tourism you again have to look at the issue through foreign eyes. If someone is planning a holiday and they can choose between visiting a nation that has rampant killing encouraged by the nation’s leader, or a relatively peaceful country, well it doesn’t take a genius to understand the choices being made. This was always going to happen and further highlights the lack of foresight into this drug war if reduced tourist numbers has come as a surprise… Duh!
Whether you agree with a foreigner’s position on this or not, the fact is that most countries do not deal with their problems this way. So they will find it difficult to understand a country that does.
The same article compared the tourism numbers of the Philippines (5.9 million annually) to nearby Thailand (32.6 million). The Philippines is a stunningly beautiful country and has natural advantages over Thailand in many ways. What it doesn’t have is infrastructure in place to handle more tourists.
Can you imagine what an additional 26 million visitors per year could do for the economy of the Philippines? Think about the airports that would need expansion, the hotels that would spring up, the fresh produce needed to fill the restaurants, the eco tourism activities they would want to do.
The tourist dollars from 26 million additional tourists would touch every corner of the Philippines economy and create millions of jobs. Would this have an impact on poverty, and give people a chance to break the cycle?
A tourism boom is just one economic pillar that the Philippines could build on to create a truly prosperous economy. This will never happen as long as the smell of death is in the air.
Unfortunately the government has decided that putting bullets in drug users is the priority. The path that this will lead to remains uncertain. Will it lead to prosperity for all? I don’t see it. All I see is a stack of dead bodies, and millions of people still stuck in poverty. Are drugs the real problem here?