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  • Oct 24, 2014
  • Updated: 1:27am
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PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 4:04am

Hong Kong is right to keep black travel alert on the Philippines

Alice Wu says the travel alert on the Philippines should stay until victims of the Manila hostage crisis get the justice they deserve

It has been three years since the Manila hostage crisis, yet survivors and victims' families still wait for the justice they deserve, and so the Philippines remains "black" on the Hong Kong government's travel alert list. Some see it as nonsensical, since the travel alert has done little to get the Philippine government to budge. Certainly, it has proved ineffective.

Sure, the new Manila mayor (and the country's ex-president) Joseph Estrada apologised for the tragedy last week. But it's puzzling since the apology wasn't his to make. Whether it was sincere is irrelevant. All Estrada can be sorry for is his president's and his predecessor's inability to say sorry.

Estrada must know that his apology is technically inconsequential. And while all this talk about what he would have done may well be true, it has the additional "virtue" of being self-serving; highlighting where Alfredo Lim failed and how he would have handled it better is a terrific public relations move. It was a perfect image-building opportunity and Estrada capitalised on it.

The apology should have no effect on Hong Kong's travel alert, which really shouldn't be much of a cause for controversy. Over 100,000 Hong Kong tourists visit the Philippines every year, even after August 23, 2010. So, it is clear it hasn't deterred Hongkongers from visiting a country whose authorities have proved - in their handling of the hostage crisis - to be completely inept and incapable of protecting innocent lives in hostage situations. Every year, enough Hongkongers choose to look past this gross negligence and gross incompetence.

Sure, the actions of key players who could have ensured a much better outcome on that tragic day have been criticised. But that's little reason to assume steps have been taken to better protect tourists. There are risks associated with travelling to the Philippines; travel warnings have been issued by other countries, for reasons like "increased terrorism activity".

The four basic demands of the survivors and relatives of victims remain unanswered: an official apology by the Philippine government; compensation; punishment for the officials responsible; and, improved tourist safety. And as they press on with legal action, the least the Hong Kong government can do is keep the travel alert.

The treatment by the Philippine government of the fatal shooting of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng by the Philippine coastguard in May stands in stark contrast to its silence on the hostage crisis. In that case, the Philippines issued a formal apology, agreed to pay compensation to Hung's family, and homicide charges have been recommended - and it took less than three months following the incident for these to happen.

We're not blind to the geopolitics that makes Hong Kong's three-year-old tragedy different from that of the Taiwanese fisherman's. It may seem nonsensical that politics should stand in the way of human lives. Call it nonsensically necessary if you want, but without the victims' demands answered, the travel alert remains. Removing it would not be politically viable.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA

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This article is now closed to comments

CatInAFlap
Probably the most ill-informed, naïve, stupid and infantile piece of "writing" ever published in a newspaper.
chuchu59
May I suggest that Alice inserts the word 'political' between the words 'is' and 'right' in the caption.
I also wonder what Alice thinks about the revelation yesterday that the Phillipines Government had actually paid or at least offered compensation to the survivors or families of the victims. The HK Government has so far been perceived to have been a weakling in its negotiations with the Phillipines Government but if compensation had been offered or paid isnt it time to revisit whether or not the black travel warning should still stand. Alternatively the HK Government should despatch someone to the Phillipines and have a good lokk at their security measures before arriving at an informed decision. Using the warning as a political tool to cover up for its incompetence is shameful.
Tiger62
What a lot of baloney. The issue of the compensation to the victims of the hostage tragedy is a legal one and a political one due to its politicisation by the media and to some extent some of the families themselves.
However a travel alert is neither part of the legal process or political. It is supposed to be an objective system of warnings to travellers so that they are aware of current dangers of travel to a location. Using it as an imagined political punishment of the location in question divorced from the actual realities of the danger of travel there is a misuse of the system. It does no one any good. It is merely playing to the media and should be condemned.
stoatmonster
Alice Wu's argument for maintaining the black travel warning is utterly ridiculous and specious and just goes to prove that the government's security warning system is a political tool rather than an objective scale for warning travellers about potential travel risks.
dynamco
surprising to see Joseph Plunder is not in jail but that kind of explains the Philippines.
I am afraid Ms Wu's article appears more like a (failed) PR stunt on behalf of the HK Govt Security Chief who is maintaining the ludicrous travel alert. ('women in short skirts should not drink or will be raped' - yes , that Security chief in this illustrious HK Government.)
Speaking of which isn't this the Alice Wu of Elitepro Consultants Ltd , PR and Advertising consultants ?
impala
This must be the dumbest piece published in the SCMP today. And mind you, we have a tractatus by James Tien on these pages today, so the competition was tough. It is hard to believe that Ms Wu was at any point associated with a (more or less) respectable institution like UCLA.

She appears to have been infected with the one-party state mindset that rules supreme in the lands that lie beyond our northern border (or 'barrier,' soon to perhaps become a 'barricade'). This mindset dictates (yes, dictates) that it is fine to use any arm, hand, foot or even toenail of the state to achieve the ruler's goals. Principles, purposes, citizens rights, or anything else that might stand in the way, are of secondary concern.

It is only with this mindset that Ms Wu can arrive at her warped conclusion that it is fine to abuse for political means a travel warning system that was set up to offer the public reliable information about potential dangers when travelling abroad. I suggest she quickly
bluefirestorm
Alice Wu wrote this absurd article because (choose one or more that applies).
(a) fell through the rabbit hole of politics at age 12 and her thoughts stayed stuck in wonderland
(b) spent too much time writing on her journal with multicoloured pens
(c) had too much caffeine with her many lattes and might be lactose intolerant
John Adams
It was only when I read Ms Wu's title at the end of her absurd article that I could make any sense of it
The fact that she terms herself a "political consultant" explains it all.
She obviously thinks that the Philippines black travel alert should stay in place to make a political point, rather than a sensible travel advisory.
Meanwhile countries like Afghanistan and Somalia are considered safe by the OTA,
PS: Ms Wu - please read the SCMP's Howard Winn ( "Laisee" column) on this subject.

pslhk
Nowadays, everybody is like a sibling of
Horace Rumpole ‘s wife
from Lam the award winning foul mouth teacher
to Japanese, Filipino … politicians in the international arena
-
They who must be infallible
They who will never apologize
jandajel
Notice that the author is a "political consultant". I guess she advises her clients to pander to the lowest common denominator, regardless if it is reasonable or logical. With consultants like her advising local politicians, it seems that Hong Kong will continue slide down to the bottom of the toilet.

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