Why blame the media?
We don’t understand why the administration keeps blaming the media for all the flak it receives here and abroad. Remember President Duterte’s threat shortly after his election that he would stop holding press conferences altogether, ostensibly because the media were always misquoting him?
Last week, it was Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo’s turn to blame the media, for reporting on the thousands of extrajudicial killings across the country. She said these reports were making it difficult to promote the country as a tourist destination, and appealed to the media to “tone down” their reporting of EJKs to make it easier for her to promote Philippine tourism.
Teo, who was part of the official delegation that accompanied Mr. Duterte on his visit to Thailand, spoke with local and foreign reporters covering the event. She said the issue of EJKs had been blown out of proportion in media reports and was producing a chilling effect on tourism. She suggested that the media “help create a more positive image of the country,” maintaining that the Philippines is very safe for both foreign and local tourists.
Of the more than 7,000 killings perpetrated in the course of the President’s war on drugs, the police have taken responsibility for only 2,500, and denied allegations by human rights groups that they were involved in the shadowy murders of suspected drug users and pushers.
Also last week, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. chair Andrea Domingo insinuated that media reports on the EJKs were not true. She told a gathering of gaming investors from Southeast Asia not to believe a negative report relayed by Vice President Leni Robredo to a United Nations body criticizing EJKs and human rights violations committed in the course of the war on drugs. Domingo told the investors to ignore Robredo’s statements — unless they started seeing for themselves corpses in the streets or people getting killed. Did the Pagcor chair miss reading or hearing about the more than 7,000 people killed in the ruthless campaign against drugs?
But why is it difficult to sell the Philippines to tourists? The answer mainly concerns economics. There simply are not enough tourism facilities, and whatever there are — think Boracay — are packed in the few famous spots now bursting at the seams with visitors.
We need to put up the needed infrastructure to lure tourists to our islands with fantastic beaches, like Bohol and Siquijor, which can be accessed only through a domestic airport in Dumaguete City or an international airport much farther in Cebu. Tourists would want to visit the Philippines, but when they look toward these shores during the peak season, they are unable to book a flight or accommodations, forcing them to look elsewhere, like Thailand, Malaysia, or Indonesia.
Think about this: Why is Thailand attracting tens of millions of tourists despite its unstable political climate? (Our Asean neighbor is still under military rule.) The answer is that it has the infrastructure — international airports throughout the country, roads that provide access to its many tourist spots, and hotels to accommodate millions of visitors every year. Compare the numbers: The Philippines drew 5.9 million tourists last year; Thailand had 32.6 million.
Despite its lack of infrastructure, the Philippines still has much to offer to tourists. But to lure them, there is a need to be aggressive in promoting tourism. And advertising is key to marketing the Philippines.
So the next time any government official is inclined to blame the media for a problem, he or she better think it through. The media are just the messenger, not the source of problems. Again, it’s a case of shooting the messenger. If there were no killings — which incidentally were occurring even when the war on drugs was supposedly suspended — the media would not be reporting them. Stop the EJKs, and the media would have nothing to report on that subject. Focus on building tourism infrastructure and marketing, and the tourists will surely come.
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