Aside from raising controversies for being accused of copying South Africa’s 2014 tourism ad, the Experience the Philippines’ ‘Sights’ had people raising questions about just how the Philippines has accommodated persons with disabilities (PWDs).
Philippines’ latest tourism ad shows a blind Japanese retiree living in the Philippines, who experienced its warmth and wonder despite his disability. The same thing goes for the South African ad.
Pressed whether the Department of Tourism thought the country was PWD-friendly on GMA News-to-Go on June 13 by anchors Kara David and Howie Severino, DOT Asec. Ricky Alegre said that the Philippines was PWD- and elderly-friendly.
“We know how much we care for our elderly. I’d like to see the day that we totally give the benefits to the disabled,” he said.
But he did admit the fact that the PWD-friendly facilities and infrastructure are “something that we can bring up to a higher level.”
A person with disability, however, contradicted Alegre.
The country has non-existent public infrastructure for PWDs,” said Ed Geronia, a writer with polio.
“Inviting over PWD tourists, especially those who are vision-impaired and who are used to navigating themselves in a first-world country may find the Philippines to be a dangerous and hostile place,” Geronia told GMA News Online.
He went on to enumerate the things that PWDs need that the Philippines does not have, such as tactile paving on the streets for the visually-impaired and pedestrian signals with accompanying audio warning. There are barely available Braile markings on public signs, elevator buttons, and pedestrian crossings, while PWD-accessible structures were merely made for minimum compliance, not to keep up with international standards.
Vera Files writer Ellen Tordesillas also opined on how the “Sights” tourism ad is “far from reality” after talking to another PWD.
In her interview with wheelchair user Abner Manlapaz, he lamented about the problems posed by our sidewalks to PWDs like him.
“Mahirap lumakad sa Metro Manila. Ang dami-daming problema sa sidewalk natin. Kung hindi ka naman gagamit ng sidewalk, doon ka sa kalsada. Para kang kotse,” Manlapaz said.
He even recalled how some people would ask him, “Nasaan plaka mo?”
Tordesillas wrote about how the DOT has earlier announced its cancellation of its contract with the advertising agency McCann Worldgroup Philippines. Tourism Asec. Reynaldo Ching also said that on top of the cancelled contract, DOT wants the ad agency to apologize.
This is not the first time the DOT has fallen victim to getting an un-original ad campaign from advertising agencies, Tordesillas noted. She said that in 2010, Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim developed a Pilipinas Kay Ganda slogan in partnership with Campaigns and Grey, but its logo was similar to Poland’s tourism ad. It was eventually scrapped.
It was under former Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez that the tourism campaign “It’s more fun in the Philippines” was developed.
The Philippines News Agency (PNA) published an article on June 13 about how Alegre said that the DOT and other concerned agencies are working together to make tourism establishments more PWD-friendly.
Alegre acknowledged that despite lagging behind its neighboring Asian countries in terms of PWD-friendly facilities, some Philippine establishments are already following world-class standards.
“Nowadays, a local government unit does not issue (permits) if you don’t have a ramp to entry for the wheelchair. The Department of the Interior and Local Government is doing its job, we just have to be able to enforce it better,” Alegre said.
Aside from coordinating with DILG, DOT is also working with the Department of Transportation and Department of Social Welfare and Development to make the Philippines more PWD-friendly.