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‘Country still safe for tourists’

Tourism officials and stakeholders yesterday declared the Philippines is a safe place to visit despite adverse travel advisories issued by several embassies warning of terror attacks in the country. DOT/File

MANILA, Philippines -  Tourism officials and stakeholders yesterday declared the Philippines is a safe place to visit despite adverse travel advisories issued by several embassies warning of terror attacks in the country.

This was the agreement reached during a meeting between stake-holders and officials led by Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, amid reports that travelers have started canceling planned trips to the Philippines.

Teo said she will write a letter to her counter- parts in Japan and Korea to ask them to lift the travel advisories and to issue a statement saying the Philippines is a safe country.

She added the Department of Tourism (DOT) would focus on the number of foreigners coming into the country rather than those who have cancelled their trips due to the adverse travel advisories.

A number of foreign governments had issued advisories against traveling to Central Visayas in particular, citing the threat of the Abu Sayyaf.

Additional travel advisories were issued even after government forces foiled a planned attack of the Abu Sayyaf in Bohol, killing a top bandit leader and some of his men last week.

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Malacañang said tourists’ interest in the Philippines “continues to surge” despite the travel warnings and recent incidents involving terrorist groups. 

“As far as we can, we have done our due diligence regarding the matter. However, on the whole, the tourist interest in the Philippines continues to surge. So it will all even up,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.

Abella maintained the Philippines remains a safe tourist destination as security forces have stepped up measures against threat groups. 

“The administration and the military is looking after the security in the area, in the region,” he said. 

Abella is confident that the recent incidents and travel advisories would not affect the government’s tourism arrival targets.

Based on the DOT’s tourist arrival data, the Philippines has received 1,210,817 tourists from January to February, which is 10.88 percent higher than the same period in 2016.

The numerous travel advisories and the cancellation of foreigners’ trips to the Philippines are not hurting the country’s tourism industry, DOT officials stressed.

DOT Undersecretary Benito Benzon said more foreign nationals have pushed through with their trips to the Philippines despite the adverse travel advisories, including those from Japan and Korea.

Benzon said a TV production group from Kansai in Japan is shooting a film in Cebu City while groups of English as a Second Language (ESL) students from Korea are in Cebu and Bohol for their familiarization tour.

Aside from that, some ESL groups have also confirmed their visit to Cebu in the fourth quarter of the year; tourists from west Japan (Osaka and Nagoya) pushed through with their trip in May, he said. – With Alexis Romero

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