• Fri
  • Sep 19, 2014
  • Updated: 7:39pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 April, 2014, 1:11am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 April, 2014, 1:11am

Remarkable change in Philippine security says Hong Kong government

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

The Security Bureau has exercised its great wisdom and decided that it is no longer unsafe for people to travel to the Philippines. It has downgraded the so-called threat level from a black alert which means "avoid all travel", to an amber alert which carries the lesser warning of "exercise caution".

Although the Outbound Travel Alert website says it "aims to help people better understand the risk or threat to personal safety in travelling," we all know the decision had nothing to do with this, but was related to the Hong Kong government's announcement yesterday that it has resolved its differences with the Philippines over the Manila hostage crisis. The black travel alert has been in force since the crisis in August 2010 and for much of this period the Philippines has shared the black travel alert with Syria, which is engaged in a full-scale civil war and has witnessed huge loss of life. This is patently absurd.

Obviously the black alert had nothing to do with the security situation in the Philippines but was a cynical abuse of the system. It was a political decision. What effect did it have? True, Hong Kong tourism to the Philippines fell for a while, but that was more likely due to the incident itself rather than the travel alert. After a couple of years the number of Hong Kong tourists to the country was close to pre-hostage levels.

Using the travel alert system in this way just made the Hong Kong government look stupid and petty. Meanwhile, when asked last year why it maintained this farce, the Security Bureau pretended it was related to personal safety issues. Small wonder people have trouble taking the government seriously when it plays silly games like this. Let's hope it has learned something from this.

 

A domani

We were dismayed to see that the popular restaurant in Pacific Place, Domani, is to close its doors on May 18. That's when its current lease with Swire Properties expires. Domani has been there for six years but Swire has plans to take over the spot for its own French restaurant. Domani's general manager Stefano Bassanese says that the El Grande Group that owns the restaurant has been looking for another location but has so far drawn a blank.

The restaurant, particularly over the last three years, has been something of a culinary embassy for Italy in Hong Kong showcasing Italian chefs and celebrating events such as the 150th anniversary of the union of Italy, the 200th anniversary of Verdi's birth, as well as featuring food from different regions of Italy. It'll be a loss. It was a decent restaurant, with good food where, unusually, you didn't feel you'd been gouged when you got the bill. We suspect that something more "upmarket" is planned to succeed it.

 

Easy does it

We see that Hongkongers are getting on their high horse about mainland children peeing in the street, leading to unedifying scenes in Mong Kok. True, the couple would have been wiser to attempt the operation in a less public place. But toddlers can be difficult in this department and they shouldn't be harassed in this way.

In any case peeing in the street is not confined to mainland toddlers. Our friend in May Road in Mid-Levels, where taxis like to take a break, reports having seen more than 30 taxi drivers over the past few years taking their ease in the street, rather than walk the 20 metres or so to the public toilet.

 

Banking hot properties

If you are a junior banker with an investment bank in Hong Kong then you can consider yourself what's known as a "hot property". That's because, according to the website eFinancialCareers, banks in the city are facing a shortage of associate-level talent at a time when they need to hire more of them to help execute deals.

Speaking to the website, Sarah Harte-Spencer, director, global markets, at search firm Sheffield Haworth says: "Their graduate programmes were cut aggressively post-financial crisis and this has affected the level of associate candidates in the market right now."

There are also too few analysts ready to move up into associate positions. The dearth of junior talent has been exacerbated recently because many have been moving out of banks and into M&A advisory roles at acquisition-hungry Chinese companies.

 

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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This article is now closed to comments

hm03
On the other side of the coin, maybe you can argue as well that because the problem was still being resolved until a few days ago, Hong Kong people would have made for a vulnerable target because of the negative feelings that Filipino people harbored.
Not trying to justify the government's actions though.
skywalker
The best option for reliable travel alerts are the UK, France, Germany or Google. Forget anbout the HK Government services. The only government institution which shows some reliability is the Observatory.
gongtaulo
Unfortunately there will be much back slapping in the corridors of Security Bureau for attaining their desired result. Watch awards list this year.
asiaseen
As for the administration learning anything, dream on
asiaseen
Downgrading the black alert - all it takes is money. Interestingly, the Ukraine, which seems to be in a state of armed chaos, doesn't even rate a colour coding - merely a comment not to travel to Crimea and otherwise avoid non-essential travel
skywalker
"Obviously the black alert had nothing to do with the security situation in the Philippines but was a cynical abuse of the system."
Thanks for writing it like this, Mr. Winn. Unfortunately the whole story shows that the HK Government is just farce, seeking some attention on the international stage. The "sanctions" against the Philippines have been a farce as well, banning DP Holders and "Officials" from visa-free access to Hong Kong. Either they should impose real sanctions or leave it. This government really takes every opportunity to show how ridiculous they are.
 
 
 
 
 

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