MANILA - The Department of Tourism on Tuesday denied that the concept of its new "Experience the Philippines" ad was copied from one released by South Africa in 2014.
"[It is] not a rip-off, definitely this is experiential," Tourism Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre said in an interview with ANC's "Early Edition."
The new Philippine tourism video, released Monday on the 119th anniversary of the country's independence, features blind Japanese retiree M. Uchimura, who explored some of the country's best known tourist spots.
Netizens have pointed out the video's striking similarity to a South African tourism ad which also featured a blind man whose disability was revealed when he pulls out a walking cane.
What sets the two ads apart, Alegre said, is that DOT's campaign stars a real-life retiree staying in the Philippines.
"Our ad that was released yesterday was beautifully executed. While it has similarity with the ads of South Africa, the biggest difference really is that is a true story. The Japanese retiree is an actual retiree residing in the Philippines," he said.
"We'd also like to add that we have been consistently putting out testimonials of foreigners in the Philippines and retirement is really a key pillar of the Department of Tourism... The Philippines is actually one of the best places in the world for retirees and we'd like to believe that the feature about the Japanese retiree really expresses what they feel about the Philippines."
Alegre also clarified that DOT's overarching campaign is still "It's More Fun in the PH" and that "Experience the Philippines" supports the former with a call to action.
"Experience the Philippines," he added, focuses on Northern Luzon tourist spots and was released in consideration of the armed conflict wracking Mindanao, especially Marawi City.
"We decided to put in a new twist exactly because we were very sensitive to the people of Marawi. We didn't feel it was proper to say 'fun' amidst all the security issues in Mindanao," Alegre explained.
Several countries including the US, UK and Canada earlier warned their citizens against traveling to southern Philippine provinces, citing terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgent groups.
"We only appeal to the countries that issued travel advisories to be more fair, to try to be more specific to which area and when the situation improves, it's about fair that they also issue a trael advisory saying it's safe," Alegre said.