Along Taft Avenue in Manila, outside the headquarters of the National Bureau of Investigation and just a stone’s throw from the headquarters of the Manila Police District as well as one of its major stations, a large sign warns the public against snatchers, particularly those riding on motorcycles.
It’s good to be warned, but it’s better to be protected by those tasked to keep the public safe. There is much to be desired in this area. A news report last week said that in the past several months, an average of one tourist a day has been robbed in Ermita, the tourist district in the city of Manila. Another report said the city has seen a surge of nearly 64 percent in the crime rate since the start of the year compared to the same period in 2011.
What happened to the much-touted police units tasked specifically to protect tourists? The special units were supposed to be created following the botched police rescue of Hong Kong tourists in Manila’s Rizal Park in August 2010. A week ago, in just a span of two days, the Manila Police District received complaints from tourists who had been robbed in Ermita: a Czech, an Australian, a Russian and an Irishman.
While there is no perfectly safe place in this planet, a measure of personal safety is important for travelers. In his third State of the Nation Address the other day, President Aquino touted the increase in tourist arrivals since 2010. He must see to it that the tourism pitch for having “fun in the Philippines” will not be spoiled by horror stories about violent muggings and thievery in the country.
Tourists aren’t the only targets. Filipinos themselves and expatriates must hang on to their bags, mobile phones, wristwatches and other personal belongings even in high-end public places in Metro Manila.
The latest victim of a violent crime was Nixon Kua, a former head of the Philippine Tourism Authority, the promotion arm of the Department of Tourism. Kua, who was a Philippine STAR reporter before he joined the administration of Joseph Estrada, died the other night after being shot in the face by men who grabbed a bag containing P90,000 from his daughter as they got out of their car in a gated village in Calamba, Laguna last Saturday. Four suspects have been arrested, but the attack highlights the urgent need to do more in keeping the public safe.