TOURISM CHIEF CLOSE TO TEARS YESTERDAY

Manila, July 28, 2003 (Star) Yesterday’s coup attempt hurt the business and tourism sectors hard enough to make Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon cry.

Gordon and Trade and Industry Secretary Manuel Roxas II said they were very distraught over the occupation by rogue soldiers yesterday of the plush Oakwood Premier apartments along Ayala Avenue in Makati City’s commercial and business district.

Roxas and Gordon admitted that this latest act of rebellion has had very serious impact on the country’s already weak economy.

Gordon shed tears as he decried the Oakwood standoff as a reprise of the 1989 siege of Makati by rebel soldiers, who occupied the Hotel Intercontinental during the administration of then President Corazon Aquino.

The Hotel Intercon is located across the plush Oakwood apartment buildings, which are part of the Glorietta shopping complex in the heart of the financial district.

Gordon lamented that the mutiny of rogue junior officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will only weaken the already bad state of the country’s tourism industry.

As it is, Gordon said, the Philippines is hard-put to draw two million tourist arrivals a year. He added that the sharp decline in tourist arrivals began in the aftermath of the 1989 coup attempt.

"After coups in the past, tourism fell because these images of coups project an unstable country," Gordon said. "The people that we see who were being led out of the hotels would not be a good picture abroad for the Philippines. This only reaffirms this image that is bad for the country."

The impact of this latest coup attempt, Gordon said, is bad for more than just the tourism industry. "If we put a human face (on) this Oakwood incident... Juan de la Cruz is the biggest loser in this."

Roxas, meanwhile, could not give estimates yet as to how much damage was dealt to the Philippine economy by this military adventurism.

Roxas added that he could not say whether or not regular trading would open at the Philippine Stock Exchange and bank transactions in Makati City — where several banks’ head offices are located — would go on until he receives further advice from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Gov. Rafael Buenaventura. Silver lining?

Seeking the silver lining in the black clouds created by this latest coup attempt, Gordon said orderly and safe evacuation and transfer of Oakwood residents and guests, including Australian Ambassador to Manila Ruth Pearce, to the nearby Hotel Intercon and Dusit Hotel, was a positive thing.

On a positive note, Roxas said, the local and foreign business communities remain supportive of the administration of President Arroyo.

These business groups also acknowledged the President’s efforts to address the concerns aired by these rogue soldiers and the inroads gained in the government’s war on corruption.

He also said the supply of basic goods in Metro Manila remains stable and there is no threat of any supply cuts or overpricing. — Marichu Villanueva


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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