MANILA, Oct 12 (Mabuhay) –The Chinese embassy has denied placing the Philippines on a blacklist for tourist destinations, calling the report a “misinformation.”

Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian pays a courtesy call to Senate President Migz Zubiri yesterday, Oct. 11. (MNS photo)

The embassy thus said in a statement sent to reporters covering the foreign affairs and diplomacy.

“The report of ‘tourist blacklist’ is misinformation. China has not placed the Philippines on its blacklist for tourism,” the Chinese embassy said.

The embassy sent the statement after Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri quoted Chinese ambassador Huang Xilian as saying that the country was now on a blacklist because of Philippine offshore gaming operations.

“Ambassador Huang said that the Philippines now is part of a blacklist of tourist sites because they do not know if a tourist will be joining POGO operations and they don’t know if their nationals who go to the Philippines will be safe from illegal activities being done by the triad, by the syndicates operating POGOs,” Zubiri said during the Senate ways and means committee hearing on POGOs.

“They may be kidnapped, mistaken for POGO operators. That’s the reason why there’s been a significant drop in Chinese tourists. By the way, they are the largest number of tourists pre-pandemic,” he added.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who was also present in the meeting on Monday, said that he had a “different appreciation” of Huang’s statement on POGO.

“Baka ang appreciation namin iba, pero definitely, ang aming pagkakaintindi ang POGO makaaapekto sa turismo natin na manggaling sa China. That’s for sure,” Gatchalian said in an interview with reporters.

“Whether it’s a restriction, a total blacklist, doon kami [magkaiba] ng appreciation pero pareho kami na itong POGO makakaapekto yan sa dami ng turista na manggagaling sa China,” he added.

In a statement after the embassy said that reports of a blacklist was misinformation, Zubiri said, “During our meeting with Ambassador Huang, the tone of his statement was that the Philippines is already being watched as a tourist hotspots and have been warning their countrymen of possible crimes that could happen to them due to POGO.”

“This statement was done during our meeting of which Senator Gatchalian and Senator Robin Padilla were present at that time,” Zubiri said.

“Conferring today with Senator Gatchalian, we both concurred that that was the message being conveyed by the good Ambassador,” he added.

“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,” Zubiri said.

Zubiri said the word “blacklist” came from Huang “so truly there is a strong possibility that we are either already in the list or could be added on that list if POGOs continue to proliferate in our country.”

“Checking the transcripts of our discussions indeed that was the overlying message being told to us by the Good Ambassador. We respect the statement he made today as one of careful diplomacy as I’m sure he does not want raise any diplomatic alarm bells when it comes to this matter,” Zubiri said.

“However his message was loud and clear: POGOs are totally illegal in China, and those promoting it will be arrested; their government is asking us to stop hosting this activity; and it could affect tourism potentials if this activities continue,” he added. (MNS)