MANILA, Philippines — A Thai newspaper article calling the Philippines “land of COVID” may have been related to the “fierce” competition on tourism between the Philippines and Thailand, Malacañang said yesterday.
The negative label, which has drawn the displeasure of the consul general of the Philippine embassy in Bangkok, was in the headline of newspaper Thai Rath’s report on the arrival of 165 Filipino teachers in Thailand.
On Monday, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Filipinos should just understand the headline as Thai journalists are barred from criticizing many people in their country.
Roque, however, thinks another factor may have motivated the release of the report.
“There is also no way we can control what our neighbors say. But do not forget that we are fierce competitors with Thailand when it comes to tourism. So I’m sure their statement that we are the Land of COVID is also motivated by the fact that they are struggling to invite people to come visit Thailand again,” the Palace spokesman told CNN Philippines. “Of course, they’re worse off insofar as they have a bigger tourism industry than us. So that’s the context by which we should listen to this comment coming from our ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) neighbors,” he added.
Roque said ASEAN members are “the closest of friends” but are also “the closest competitors as far as economic interests are concerned.”
“We’re dealing with the exact same commodities and in the case of Thailand, it’s tourism in particular,” Roque said.
Despite the rising number of infections, Roque insisted that the Philippines’ situation is “not bad.”
“We’re number 22 (in terms of pandemic cases), which is still not bad given that we don’t have the same resources available as the United States has. And we now have the highest testing being conducted in Southeast Asia,” Roque said.
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