MANILA – Philippine police vowed beefed up protection for visitors in an attempt to do hostage fiasco damage control and to lure back foreign tourists.
AFP reports that police chief Raul Bacalzo said the numbers of special tourist protection units assigned at top tourist draws would be boosted to deter criminals.
“In coordination with tourism authorities, (police are) fielding more police personnel to man these Special Tourist Protection Units as preemptive measure against crime syndicates that prey on foreign and local tourists,” he said.
These units would operate in major tourist destinations including Baguio, Boracay, Cebu, Bohol, Palawan, Tagaytay and Davao, Bacalzo said in a statement.
The crime threat was magnified in August when a dismissed police officer hijacked a tourist bus in a bizarre bid to force the government to give him back his job and dismiss extortion charges against him.
Eight Hong Kong tourists and the hostage-taker were killed while seven other Hong Kong tourists were wounded in a bungled rescue operation in central Manila that was aired live on global television.
According to AFP, Bacalzo said police had since been giving seminars in parts of the country with relatively large tourist or expatriate populations to educate members of the public on personal security measures.
President Benigno Aquino, who this week called for minor charges against police and government officials singled out by a high-level inquiry as responsible for the fiasco, said Wednesday he was determined to revive tourism.
“Now, in tourism in particular, we are the laggards as far as Southeast Asia is concerned. We have a three million tourist population that comes in compared to Malaysia’s 22 million (and) Thailand’s 14 million,” he said.
“Why should we be buoyant? There are so many areas of the country that can be exploited but are not accessible,” he said, pledging to increase state funding to improve roads and airports.