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VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Zubiri changes tune on China placing PH on tourism blacklist

Maybe what the Chinese ambassador meant was that the Philippines could possibly be blacklisted.

Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri 2022-10-11 Flip-flop

China had placed the Philippines on its blacklist of tourism destinations due to the continued operations of Philippine offshore gaming operators in the country.

Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri has backtracked on his announcement that China had placed the Philippines on its blacklist of tourism destinations ”because of the problem with POGOs [Philippine offshore gaming operators].”

STATEMENT

On Oct. 11, without admitting that he misinterpreted the Chinese ambassador’s statement, Zubiri posted on his Facebook page:

“Maybe it was lost in translation and what the good Ambassador meant was we could be possibly blacklisted as he mentioned they do that to countries who promote gambling for their countrymen.”

 

Source: Senator Migz Zubiri’s official Facebook page, During our meeting with Ambassador Huang…, Oct. 11, 2022

The clarification came following a statement from the Chinese embassy describing as “misinformation” the reports on the Philippines being blacklisted in China as a tourist destination.

FACT

Speaking at a hearing of the Senate committee on ways and means joint with public order and dangerous drugs on Oct. 11, Zubiri said that in his meeting with Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian the previous day, the envoy mentioned that the Philippines had been included in China’s blacklist of tourist destinations amid continuous offshore gaming operations in the country.

“Ambassador Huang said that the Philippines now is part of a blacklist of tourist sites because they do not know if the tourists going there will be operating or will be joining POGO operations,” he said during a hearing on POGOs.

The senator added that China had expressed concerns over the security and safety of Chinese nationals and noted that this has led to a “significant drop of Chinese tourists.”

However, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who joined Zubiri and Sen. Robinhood Padilla in the meeting with Huang, told reporters separately on Oct. 11 that the envoy did not say this. He said that Huang only mentioned the “possibility” that China would “restrict” its citizens from coming to the Philippines.

“I think the context there is kinatakutan nila na ‘yung mga pupuntang turista rito magtatrabaho sa POGO. So, they will restrict; not blacklist or ban,” said Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on ways and means.

(I think the context there is that they are afraid that Chinese tourists who will come here would work for the POGOs. So, they will restrict; not blacklist or ban.)

A few hours after Zubiri announced the supposed blacklisting, the Chinese embassy issued a  statement saying that tourism is “an important component of practical cooperation between China and the Philippines.”

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic[,] close to two million Chinese nationals traveled to the Philippines in 2019, making China the second largest source of tourists. We expect more Chinese tourists to come to this country after the pandemic,” it said.

On Oct. 12, Zubiri once again maintained in a Facebook post and an interview on DZBB radio that the word “blacklisted” came from the ambassador himself and not from the senators.

On the other hand, Gatchalian said in an interview on CNN Philippines on the same day that  what happened was a simple case of “misappreciation” of the statements of the ambassador.   What is clear, he said, is that online gambling is illegal in China.

For his part, Padilla said in a press release that when Zubiri asked Huang if Chinese offshore gambling operators have connections to crime syndicates, the ambassador responded in the affirmative. That is why, he said, many of them are either blacklisted or wanted in China.

 

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Sources

Senator Migz Zubiri’s official Facebook page, During our meeting with Ambassador Huang…, Oct. 11, 2022

China denies putting PH on tourism blacklist

Senate of the Philippines, Senate receives Chinese Ambassador, Oct. 10, 2022

Senate of the Philippines, Committee on Ways and Means joint with Public Order and Dangerous Drugs (October 11, 2022), Oct. 11, 2022

Senate of the Philippines, Sen. Win Gatchalian, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, discusses the highlights of the second hybrid hearing on the…, Oct. 11, 2022

Chinese Embassy Manila, Statement on POGO related issues by the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy, Oct. 11, 2022

Senator Migz Zubiri’s official Facebook page, Hindi ako Mariton, at hindi ako nag bibigay ng fake news…, Oct. 12, 2022

GMA News, Dobol B TV Livestream: October 12, 2022 – Replay, Oct. 12, 2022

CNN Philippines, Senator Win Gatchalian | The Source, Oct. 12, 2022

Senate of the Philippines, Sa Pakikipagugnayan sa Ambassador ng Tsina, Oct. 13, 2022

 

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)