MANILA, AUGUST 27, 2010 (STAR) THE FREEMAN - The private sector of the tourism industry that the Tourism Congress represents viewed with shock and disbelief the audacious hostage-taking of foreign nationals who came into our country intending to have an enjoyable time and ended up instead with this terrible experience.

We, along with the rest of the world, watched the more than 11-hour crisis in live coverage and we share the agony that our visitors must have felt as hour after hour passed with no resolution.

We deeply sympathize with those who were hurt and wounded and those who eventually succumbed because of the injuries they sustained. Indeed, such deplorable incident has no place in today's civilized society.

Today also manifested how ill-prepared we are in handling crisis like this. The victims were tourists - foreign nationals we, in the tourism industry, are working so hard to invite to our country because their arrivals translate to many benefits for the Philippines.

The eyes of the world were upon us and brushing this off as just an isolated incident will not reverse the strong imagery of shattered windows, police with their guns drawn and hapless victims covered with blood being loaded into ambulances.

We are concerned with the repercussions this incident will mean to our industry. Already Hong Kong issued a black alert travel advisory for Philippines to their nationals. We expect that others would follow suit.

We urged the government in our Industry Paper to put in place crisis public relations management mechanisms precisely because we have not addressed this properly in the past to the detriment of our tourism stakeholders.

The world should have seen a visible strong and calming presence of a high-ranking official directing the actions. They should have seen us helping the victims ensuring their comfort post-incident, commiserating with their families - even apologizing to them for this unfortunate incident which nobody wanted to happen. They should have seen us taking care of them.

That they were treated very well will at least be in their memory alongside the grim experience. Hopefully, they will also remember these gestures when they recount their experience to the world because make no mistake about this - they surely will.

Therefore, we strongly reiterate our call on the government to address the issue of safety and security of our visitors and make this a top priority.

We urge the establishment of a crisis PR plan that can immediately manage the repercussions of incidents like this.

We call on our government leaders to be deliberate in their actions and exercise prudence in their statements because we cannot afford to be seen as indifferent, even callous to the situation our visitors found themselves in.

We must take steps to ensure that this will not happen again.


Tourism Congress,

Board of Trustees



Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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