The international community had mixed reactions on the bloody hostage crisis in Manila on Monday that ended with the deaths of nine people— eight Hong Kong tourists and the Filipino hostage-taker.
In the Middle East, Hong Kong received criticism of its "stern travel advisory" banning all travel to the Philippines.
“Hong Kong’s spontaneous reaction to issue a stern travel advisory banning travel to the Philippines is, however, no less than a knee-jerk reaction," United Arab Emirates-based news site Khaleej Times said in its editorial.
"Though Hong Kong and China’s concerns for its citizens are well placed, this accident should not be allowed to act as a spanner in the works. South-east Asia cannot afford any such ban, and obstructing trade, travel and tourism opportunities will come to haunt the regional economy, which is already mired in recessionary trends," the editorial added.
The editorial added that the travel ban, a result of Hong Kong's “post-carnage fear," should be undone because of its effects on Southeast Asia trade, travel, and tourism.
On Monday, an hour after the hostage crisis ended, the Security Bureau of Hong Kong advised its citizens to avoid all travel to the Philippines.
The Khaleej Times editorial noted that Hong Kong, home to thousands of Filipinos, cannot stand to miss the "archipelago connection."
However, The Khaleej Times also said the Philippines, home to a large number of Chinese nationals and a preferred tourist destination, should take an "inclusive view of this tragedy" as well.
“Actually, it is response to the hostage taking that had painted Manila in bad light. The police decision to storm the bus was ill-advised, and that apparently provided the hijacker with an excuse to go on rampage," it said.
“Though not a terrorist act, this incident has brought in far-reaching ramifications for travel and tourism prospects of the archipelago," it added.
It also supported Beijing’s demand for a thorough investigation to primarily pinpoint security lax on Manila’s part.
The editorial also said questions need to be answered as to why the lone gunman could not be overpowered through amicable means, and why police reportedly sat back to see the drama unfold in blood and tears.
The editorial also lauded the Philippines "for keeping its cool."
“The good thing, however, is that Philippines is keeping its cool and President Benigno Aquino has promised to personally look into the issue. It would be prudent of authorities in China, Hong Kong and Philippines to deal with the issue in a professional investigative manner, and not to compound the situation by hampering diplomatic and recreational activities," it said.
UK travel advisory
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom also issued a travel advisory against the Philippines.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) placed the hostage incident under “crimes" in its advisory updated Tuesday.
Around 70,000 British tourists visit the Philippines every year, the FCO said, citing figures from the Philippine Department of Tourism.
However, the FCO advisory also hinted at other recent problems, including criminal gangs who may use terrorist tactics, such as kidnapping and explosions, which have caused fatalities.
It particularly warned its nationals to be wary of a high incidence of street crime and robberies, especially with the holidays approaching.
“There is a high incidence of street crime and robberies, which often increases during the holiday season. Sensible precautions include: arranging to be met at the airport or using hotel transfer services; using a driver or taxis from a reputable source and avoiding displays of cash or jewellery. Even well lit and busy city areas cannot be assumed to be safe. You should beware of strangers offering drinks or confectionery, criminals intent on robbery may lace these to render the victim unconscious," it said.
Armed hold-ups have occurred on jeepneys and buses in the Philippines, and have in some cases resulted in fatalities, it added.
The advisory likewise appeared to touch on recent bus accidents, noting the “roadworthiness of some (public utility) vehicles is also a concern."
On the other hand, the FCO reiterated the extent of medical care varies across the Philippines, and may not meet the standards of care in the UK.
“Although sufficient in major cities, medical care is limited in more remote areas. You should be aware that medical treatment can be very expensive," it added.
Possible decline of tourism-related businesses
With the travel ban in place, officials and traders in Cebu province in Central Visayas have voiced fears of a possible decline in tourism-related business there.
Radio dzBB's Cebu affiliate reported on Wednesday Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said Hong Kong's travel ban might have a negative effect on tourism and business in the province.
Garcia said Cebu has been a popular destination for tourists, including those from China and Hong Kong.
She added the incident could have been handled better with stricter measures, including a media blackout while the crisis was ongoing.
The dzBB radio report quoted Tourism department officer-in-charge for Central Visayas Rowena Montecillo as saying that while there has been no cancellation of hotel and tour reservations, some Hong Kong tourists have cut short their vacation there.
The report also said local traders lamented the travel ban may lay to waste the provincial government's efforts to give Cebu the reputation as the third best island of Asia.
Meanwhile, in Davao City, dzBB's Davao affiliate reported at least 30 Chinese tourists had canceled scheduled their trip there.
The report also said local residents sympathized with the hostage victims by lighting candles and offering flowers for them.
— LBG/VVP, GMANews.TV