After Zubiri statement, Chinese embassy says PH has not been put on tourism blacklist

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 11 2022 10:57 PM | Updated as of Oct 12 2022 03:03 PM

MANILA—The Chinese embassy in Manila on Tuesday said the Philippines is not in its country's tourism blacklist, a clarification it made after Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri's statement earlier.

"China has not placed the Philippines on its blacklist for tourism," the Chinese embassy told media on Tuesday.

Zubiri said earlier Tuesday that during a meeting, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian informed Filipino senators about the blacklist due to the continued operations of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs).

"Ambassador Huang said that the Philippines now is part of a blacklist of tourist sites because they do not know if the tourist going there will be joining POGO operations," the Senate President said during a committee hearing in the upper chamber.

But Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who was present in the meeting, said the envoy did not say the Philippines was really on China's tourism blacklist.

"Hindi confirmed. But ang sinasabi niya (Huang), possible maba-blacklist tayo... Parang, I think the context there is kinatakutan nila na yung mga pupuntang turista rito magtatrabaho sa POGO. So, they will restrict. Not blacklist or ban. But, they will restrict the Chinese tourists that will be coming to the Philippines," Gatchalian told reporters.

In response to the China embassy's latest statement, Zubiri said that "the tone of Huang's statement was that the Philippines is already being watched as a tourist hotspot and have been warning their countrymen of possible crimes that could happen to them due to POGO." 

"This statement was done during our meeting of which Sen. Gatchalian and Sen. Padilla were present at that time. Conferring today with Sen. Gatchalian, we both concurred that that was the message being conveyed by the good Ambassador. Maybe it was lost in translation and what the good Ambassador meant was we could be possibly blacklisted as he mentioned they do that to countries who promote gambling for their countrymen," he explained.

"The word blacklist came from the good Ambassador and not from the senators so truly there is a strong possibility that we are either already in the list or could be added on that list if POGOs continue to proliferate in our country. Can we risk the tremendous loss on tourism if that indeed happens. Checking the transcripts of our discussions indeed that was the overlying message being told to us by the Good Ambassador," Zubiri added.

"It was the ambassador who said the tourism blacklist. Not any one of us. As he discussed how it could affect tourism. So maybe he meant future tense and not present tense," the senator told reporters.

Huang had confirmed meeting with senators on Monday afternoon but did not elaborate beyond the topics discussed.

"We exchanged views on further strengthening the relationship between China and the Philippines and discussed practical cooperation on renewable energy, electrical cars, people-to-people and cultural exchanges, joint development of oil and gas, cracking down on POGO-related crimes among others," he said on Facebook.

The Chinese embassy issued another statement later.

“Crimes induced by and associated with POGO not only harm China’s interests and China-Philippines relations, but also hurt the interests of the Philippines. It is therefore widely believed that social costs of POGO far outweigh its economic benefits to the Philippines in the long run and POGO should be tackled from the root so as to address the social ills in a sweeping manner,” it said. 

POGOs target customers in China, where gambling is illegal. Beijing has previously called on Manila to ban all forms of online gambling. 

According to data from the tourism department, Chinese arrivals by air accounted for 1.37 percent or 22,236 passengers out of the total tourist entries from February to September.—With a report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News