HOSTAGE CRISIS: BIG SETBACK ON TOURISM / NOY'S FACEBOOK FLOODED W/GRIPES

[PHOTO AT LEFT - tOURISM SECRETARY ALBERTO LIM]

MANILA, AUGUST 225 2010 (STAR) By Alexis Romero - Last Monday’s hostage incident in Manila poses a setback to the government’s efforts to achieve its tourism arrival target of 3.3 million this year, Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim said.

“It (achieving tourism arrival target) will be a challenge. Had this not happened, it would have been easier to get the 3.3 million,” Lim said in a press briefing at the Manila Doctor’s Hospital late Monday evening.

“In the short term, it (incident) will have  a negative impact…It takes time to forget but the market will come back,” he added.


[Video of the Quirino grandstand hostage crisis: HONG KONG MOURNS
MANILA HOSTAGE VICTIMS - Courtesy of ABC News]

Lim said the government will conduct publicity campaigns in other countries to explain that the hostage incident is an isolated case.

“We plan to do a media program especially in Hong Kong to explain that this is an isolated case, that there is no breakdown of law and order in the Philippines,” he said

Lim said they will also coordinate with the private sector for the offering of special travel packages to tourists.

When asked if the government can still achieve its goal to lure 3.3 million tourists this year, Lim said: “We will try our best.”

The Tourism chief noted that other issues such as the labor woes of the Philippine Airlines and the security situation in Mindanao can also affect the number of visitors arriving in the country.

Lim said around 130,000 to 150,000 Hong Kong nationals visit the Philippines every year. He said tourism arrivals reached 1.15 million as of end-April.

Tourism, which promotes consumption and job creation, constitutes 6% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). The GDP is the sum of all goods and services produced by the economy in a given period.

On Monday, a dismissed policeman hijacked a bus and held hostage 21 Chinese tourists at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila. Former police senior inspector Rolando Mendoza claimed that he was illegally dismissed and demanded that he be reinstated to the police force.

The hostage crisis ended after Mendoza was shot dead by a sniper. The incident lasted for more than 11 hours.

Initial reports from the Health Department as of late yesterday evening showed that the incident left eight Hong Kong nationals deed and seven others wounded. The government has been coordinating with the Chinese embassy to provide the needs of the victims.

FROM GMA NEWS TV

A NATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT: AQUINO'S FACEBOOK FLOODED W/ COMPLAINTS

Aquino's Facebook page flooded with complaints on hostage crisis 08/24/2010 | 07:52 PM Email the Editor Print Share This Share31 Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III's official Facebook page has been swamped with hundreds of complaints in the 24 hours since yesterday's hostage crisis at the Quirino Grandstand.

The hostage situation has been the main topic of discussion on Aquino's Facebook page, where hundreds of postings discussed or commented directly on what happened at the Quirino Grandstand.

Criticism hinged on the drawn-out negotiations; the lack of trained negotiators and equipment; crowd control problems; media's handling of the situation; and even gun use.

A national embarrassment

Many commenters feared that the hostage incident was a national embarrassment and will certainly hurt the Philippines' image in the eyes of international observers as well as its tourism industry.

"Maaari po sana na paki training ang mga kapulisan at ang SWAT team o kaya naman sibakin na po lahat.... nakakakahiya sa international community ang daming namatay (Please either train the SWAT teams or fire them all. They are a shame to the international community)," she said.

Aquino's Fanpage was also bombarded with suggestions, ranging from firing Philippine National Police chief Director General Jesus Verzosa to shooting hostage taker Rolando Mendoza with a tranquilizer.

"Noynoy had Dr. Prisco Nilo relieved from his post as PAG-ASA (Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) chief because of the poor performance of PAG-ASA. He should do the same thing to the PNP. Gen. Jesus Versoza should be FIRED," said Facebook user "Darwin Pasco". He added that "heads should roll," including those of Manila police director Chief Superintendent Rodolfo Magtibay and Metro Manila police chief Director Leocadio Santiago Jr.

"Mackz Sumatra" pointed out that training is important in such delicate situations: "What if MRT naman un may hinostage.. what plans and actions they would, swat is capable of assaulting terrain in all kinds of scenario," he said.

"Johanna Valbuena" called on Aquino to either train the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) units or fire them.

The President on social media

President Aquino's social media accounts -on Facebook as well as Twitter, Friendster, and Facebook- was launched on August 16 by the Presidential Communications Operations Office as a means to get public feedback online. The accounts are linked to Aquino's official website, www.president.gov.ph. - GMANews.TV


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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