MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government wants no less than an apology from a Canadian actor who claimed that corrupt customs officers wanted his iPhone in exchange for his entry in the international airport.
“We believe that Taylor Kitsch made an erroneous statement which demeaned our country and an apology would be a proper, decent response,” Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a text message.
Customs Commissioner Rufino Biazon has consistently denied claims by Kitsch that he received rough treatment from a customs officer in the country, saying the actor was apparently actually in Indonesia at the time.
Biazon said he investigated claims that an airport customs officer threatened to send the “Friday Night Lights” star back to Japan, his port of origin, because his passport had run out of pages.
On the “Late Show with David Letterman,” Kitsch, 30, had also alleged the unidentified officer demanded that he be given an iPhone.
“I feel confident that Mr. Kitsch was mistaken in saying that his bad experience during his travel was in the Philippines,” Biazon said in his blog.
Authorities had found no customs or immigration records of Kitsch’s entry, he said.
Also, the Philippine government had not given any permits for location shooting for the Oliver Stone-directed “Savages,” contrary to the actor’s suggestion.
Biazon said he learned that some scenes in the upcoming film, also starring John Travolta and Uma Thurman, were actually recently filmed in Indonesia.
“Unfortunately, the damage was done. In the meantime, Mr. Kitsch, perhaps you can help us redeem our lost pride,” Biazon wrote.
The Philippines has been going to great lengths to promote its tourism, tarnished by kidnappings of Western tourists, corruption and the aging Ninoy Aquino International Airport, named by a travel website last year as the world’s worst gateway.
A clip of the Kitsch interview on CBS.com shows Letterman asking about the supposed Philippine film shoot.
Kitsch, who is best known for his portrayal of American football star Tim Riggins in the television series “Friday Night Lights,” did not dispute the name of the country.
Kitsch said he was finally allowed in after proving he was an actor by showing the customs officer on his iPhone the trailer for his recently completed film “John Carter,” in which he plays a Civil War veteran transplanted to Mars.
Biazon said they are planning to write to Letterman and Kitsch and request an apology from them for putting the agency and the country in a bad light. “A concerned citizen gave me the e-mail address of the (Letterman) show, where I can send the letter. We are preparing it already,” he said.
When asked if Kitsch should be treated as a persona non grata, Biazon said there was no need. “We only seek clarification from them. They just have to send a message that Kitsch’s unfortunate experience did not happen here,” he said. - By Delon Porcalla and Evelyn Macairan