Zubiri blames China envoy for ‘blacklisting’ miscue | Inquirer News

Zubiri blames China envoy for ‘blacklisting’ miscue

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 05:51 AM October 13, 2022
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Huang Xilian. STORY: Zubiri blames China envoy for ‘blacklisting’ miscue

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri welcomes Huang Xilian, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Philippines, at the Senate on Oct. 10, 2022. (File photo from the Office of the Senate President)

MANILA, Philippines — And the finger-pointing begins.

Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri on Wednesday stood firm on his earlier pronouncement that China had blacklisted Manila as a tourist destination due to the government’s decision to let Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) continue to exist.


Speaking with reporters, Zubiri said it was “regrettable” that the Chinese Embassy in Manila had dismissed as “misinformation” his remarks quoting Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian.

During Tuesday’s Senate hearing on POGOs, he claimed that Huang had informed him and two of his colleagues — Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Robinhood Padilla — that Beijing had barred its citizens from traveling here because of the spate of crimes related to the Chinese-run internet gambling activities.


The Chinese Embassy, however, denied later that day that Beijing had put the Philippines on a blacklist of tourist destinations, describing Zubiri’s remarks as “misinformation.”

Still, Zubiri was unyielding.

“We stand by our statement. We have a transcript of what has transpired [during our meeting],” he said in a Zoom interview. “We’re not dreaming. What I said was the truth. We have many witnesses who heard our conversation.”

Zubiri insisted that it was Huang, not him, who mentioned the word “blacklist” when the foreign diplomat visited him for a courtesy call at his Senate office on Monday.

According to Zubiri, Huang had told them that the Philippines was “now part of a blacklist of tourist sites because they do not know if the [Chinese nationals] going [here] will be joining POGO operations.”

‘Ambassador’s fault’

If there was someone to blame for the mix-up, the Senate leader said, it should be the Chinese diplomat.

“The fault lies with the ambassador. He mentioned [the word] ‘blacklisting.’ Maybe he made a mistake. Maybe his statement was in the ‘future tense,’ that we could be possibly blacklisted,” Zubiri added.


In fact, he said he and Gatchalian immediately expressed their concern about it since China was one of the country’s primary sources of foreign visitors.

However, Gatchalian had already contradicted Zubiri’s statement on the same day the Senate president made the blacklisting announcement.

“Let me qualify that this has not yet been implemented, but there’s a possibility so we have to wait for the official pronouncement [of the Chinese embassy], but based on our conversation they might restrict their tourists,” Gatchalian said.

“Maybe we were just ‘lost in translation’ if [Huang] used blacklisting in the present tense or future tense. Maybe my appreciation was that we were blacklisted already, but what he meant by ‘blacklist’ is for future tense,” Zubiri noted.

The Senate President said he would send a letter to ask Huang for a categorical statement about China’s policy.

Asked if he would say sorry for the incident, he said: “Why will I apologize? I stand by what [I] said. [Huang] said it to us. I’m just the bearer of the message.”

As to whether Huang and the Chinese Embassy should apologize to him, Zubiri said: “There’s no need. It’s OK.”

No position yet

In Malacañang, Undersecretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil, officer in charge of the Office of the Press Secretary, said on Wednesday that President Marcos was keeping a close watch on the issue of POGOs following the spate of kidnappings and other crimes related to the industry.

Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin also said on Wednesday that Malacañang has yet to come up with its own stand regarding calls to pull the plug on POGOs.

“We have not yet decided on that,” Bersamin said in reply to a question by Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, who presided over the hearing on the budget request of the Office of the President for 2023.

“It is being discussed. But because your proceedings [in the Senate] are ongoing, out of respect for your findings, we cannot second-guess [what will be your recommendation],” he said.

Garafil also welcomed the clarification made by the Chinese Embassy on the alleged blacklisting of the Philippines, noting the importance of China as a major source of tourists.

China has yet to reopen its borders to outbound leisure travel of its own nationals and this explains why there were only 17,454 Chinese visitors to the Philippines in 2020; 6,615 in 2021, and 23,482 in 2022, according to Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco.



Pogo’s curse: PH on China’s blacklist of tourist sites over offshore gambling ops — Zubiri

PH not on China’s tourism blacklist – Chinese Embassy

Move to ban POGOs gets boost from Senate head

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