"..a bardy view!"

Philippines Tourist Police…Walk like an Egyptian?

In the aftermath of the botched Manila coach hijack rescue, the Philippines Government have launched a tourist police program to regain confidence for foreign visitors.

I can only hope that they have more credibility than the Egyptian tourist police, who were set up after a terrorist incident some years ago.

I was in Egypt only last month, and whilst initially comforted that they were around, the slow realisation that this force was a cosmetic joke began to dawn.

You would be hard pushed to find a more slovenly shower of public servants anywhere. I don't make this observation lightly, and I wish I didn't have to make it at all, but facts are facts.

The average Egyptian tourist cop will be idly sitting, slouching, or harrassing the very people they are designed to assist and protect. They have few language skills and no social ones. They expect baksheesh (tips) as much as all the other touts who can be expected to assault the unwary. Whilst most are carrying guns, they look as though they wouldn't know one end of a rifle from the other, and the thought that they may have to use them in a crisis beggars belief.

If they are not turning a blind eye to the rampant hassling by their fellow citizens, they are actually participating.They pretend to offer you assistance, but at a price. For Gods sake don't be fooled.

The simple act of taking a photograph for you is expected to be rewarded, and any offer of payment will be regarded as too small, and their palms will be outstretched for more. I didn't meet one Egyptian, policeman or otherwise, who did not expect some form of payment. There is little doubt that pocket syndicates exist to extort money through harassment, and these "police" are well and truly part of them. Children seem to be the best method of delivery. They will have a modicum of English, befriend you, spin a yarn and offer tourist tat with entrepreneurial skills that business and marketing schools would be proud of.

Meanwhile, in the background an adult sits in wait ready to jump in and take over. He may be on a camel, he may be standing nearby, and he may (and most likely) be an Egyptian Tourist Policeman.

I am heartily sickened by the many arguments which justify this by saying that the Egyptian is a poor soul who is just trying to earn a crust. This is big business, and everyone of the countless visitors who spend hard earned savings to see the wonders of Egypt is regarded as nothing more than a cash cow. We are talking about a country here where every single individual, in every situation, will do nothing, and I mean "nothing" without expecting a tip. It is an exhausting experience for the tourist, and as I have mentioned in an earlier post, such behaviour creates unfriendly reaction.

It cannot be denied that a Nile cruise on a good boat is a wonderful experience. The norm on a ship is not to tip everytime, but to leave money in an envelope at the end of the cruise, which is then pooled for all the crew. Its when you disembark at various attractions when short arms and long pockets are required.

Tour guides will invariably get you to an Alabaster factory, or a Papyrus store, or an essential oil emporium where the unsuspecting and innocent visitor will be expected to buy something. Even if you do, there will come another round of sales pitch to persuade you to buy more. It's akin to being locked up in a Spanish time share presentation, and if you can leave without opening a wallet, then you are a better man than me Gunga Din.

Taxi drivers will do their damndest not to get you to your destination, at least not without taking a detour to one of the afforementioned rip-off shops. For that's what they are.

Egyptians frown upon their own currency. They don't want it. Dollars, Euros and Sterling are the order of acceptance. Lets face it, with armies of Americans and Europeans descending on their beloved (and exploited) pyramids and temples, they are an open invitation to make a fast and meticulously planned buck.

Its because of this that the Egyptian has demeaned himself and has a prostrate reputation. They do not seem to care about this global view.

The news that the Philippines are setting up a tourist police force fills me with concern. Unless this outfit is properly trained, has dignity, and believes in their paramount raison d'être, then I fear they will become as bad as the Egyptians. Yes, they are culturally different, but the hunger for the greenback is a universal desire, and easy to attain if it can be generated in uniform.

I say to the Philippines government – think twice, don't have a knee-jerk reaction, and if you must go down this route look at others who have done it badly. The Philippines is a country with a reputation of outstanding friendliness, where its people are extremely sociable and are sufficiently dignified not to expect baksheesh. Don't let the new tourist police hijack that reputation and spoil it. It is the beginnings of a slippery slope.

Think hard and don't let them walk like an Egyptian.


October 23, 2010 - Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, The Philippines, Travel | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Filipino policemen have no proper training.They called they as police “patola”. Some of Filipino policemen involved in many crimes like rape, car napping, kid napping and other crime.


    Comment by philippines classified ads | January 26, 2011 | Reply

  2. youb are stereotyping


    Comment by glenn | April 12, 2011 | Reply

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