Tourist dollar HK's 'only weapon' in dispute with Manila over court

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 December, 2010, 12:00am

Hong Kong has little leverage over Manila other than economic power like the tourist dollar, critics say.

Even so, it would be unwise for the Philippine government to refuse to co-operate with the Coroner's Court in Hong Kong, as it is anxious to rebuild the confidence of Hong Kong tourists to the country, they say.

'A Manila uncooperative with Hong Kong would only worsen the impression of Hong Kong people about the country,' said Ma Ngok, an associate professor of government and public administration at Chinese University.

'Families here would not discriminate against their domestic helpers from the Philippines, but many visitors would continue to feel reluctant to take their holidays there. That will hit the Philippines economically.

'I would not say Hong Kong is politically vulnerable at the international level. I believe many other countries would have managed a similar crisis more professionally.

'Therefore, the hostage crisis and the ensuing tension between Hong Kong and the Philippines is more an isolated case, which can be attributed to poor management by the Philippine government.'

There have been no Hong Kong group tours to the Philippines since the hostage crisis in August.

Emily Lau Wai-hing, a Democrats vice-chairwoman, said it was in Manila's interest to co-operate.

'We are not a political heavyweight. However, the refusal of Manila to co-operate with us would not do any good to the Philippines, especially its tourist industry if Hong Kong people refuse to travel to the country,' she said.

Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung warned that the Philippines had already missed the peak season for holidaymakers from Hong Kong during Christmas due to the fallout from the hostage crisis.

'The hostage drama which was broadcast on TV in August completely devastated the impression of Hong Kong about the country,' Tung said.

'The tension eased a bit two weeks ago when Manila sent some officials to Hong Kong to show their sincerity to redress the damage.

'However, the remark by Philippine President Benigno Aquino yesterday showing his hesitation to co-operate with Hong Kong's Coroner's Court will dash the confidence of Hong Kong travellers once again.

'Travellers will question whether Manila has both the ability and the sincerity in protecting the personal safety of visitors.

'We believe the number of tours from Hong Kong going to the country will continue to stay at zero for Chinese New Year. It will also hurt the confidence of tourists from other countries if Manila fails to co-operate with Hong Kong,' Tung said.