DFA official says unaware of Chinese embassy notice on tourism blacklist

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MANILA — A Foreign Ministry official said he was unaware of any notice from the Chinese Embassy regarding the Philippines’ tourism blacklisting.

Assistant Secretary Henry Bensurto, Jr. of the DFA’s Office of Consular Affairs released the statement following Tuesday’s announcement by Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri that China has blacklisted the Philippines as a as a tourist destination due to the proliferation of offshore gambling operations in the country, as reportedly mentioned by Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian.

The embassy denied Zubiri’s statement.

DFA spokeswoman Teresita Daza, for her part, said she was not free to respond or comment because she has not yet checked whether there has been any communication from the embassy.

According to her, what the DFA knows so far is what was posted by the Embassy on its Facebook account.

“I still have to consult with the relevant office (on) what happened in relation to what happened with this audit,” Daza said.

When asked if embassies are required to notify host governments if a travel ban is issued, Bensurto said issuing travel advisories is a sovereign prerogative of any country.

“Every sovereign state has the right to decide for itself its policy, the factors to be taken into account in developing this policy, the factors to be taken into account in developing this policy and how to implement this policy. It is not our function to interfere in this process, in the same way that we do not want foreign countries to interfere in our process,” he said, adding that dialogue and communication can facilitate the understanding.

“It’s also part of a practice, basically, out of courtesy to your colleagues to maintain those good relations to avoid misunderstandings and also to allow the other party to explain or resolve the issue in some way or another,” he added.

Meanwhile, Bensurto explained that visas are issued to foreigners based on the character or purpose of their visit for which they are applying.

But the DFA has no mandate or ability to monitor the activities of the visa holder, as that is already the function of law enforcement, he said.

“Whether or not a person has obtained a visa actually exercises that status accordingly or in accordance with their visa application, our duties end there. We don’t have the ability to monitor that because we’re not law enforcement,” he said.

“Our function is limited to issuing visas abroad. As soon as the person comes to the Philippines, the aspect of monitoring, the aspect of whether or not they are able to act or enjoy his status in accordance with his visa application is beyond us,” he added.

He said the FDFA applies fairness and the utmost caution in handling visa applications from foreigners in general.

Noting that the Philippines has not been placed on its tourism blacklist, the Chinese Embassy said on Tuesday night that “the ‘tourism blacklist’ report is misinformation.”

Reacting to the statement, Zubiri on Wednesday called the use of the word “misinformation” “incorrect” and maintained that he was not a purveyor of false information.

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

Some local officials and sectors are also calling for a halt to offshore gambling operations in the country, citing its social costs.

According to data from the tourism department, Chinese arrivals by air accounted for 1.37 percent or 22,236 passengers of the total tourist arrivals from February to September this year.

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