‘Not what good neighbours do’: Filipino lawmaker hits out at Singapore over Taylor Swift deal


Some Filipino Swifties who were saddened by Manila’s exclusion from American pop star Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour have been taking out their frustrations on social media over the past months. - Reuters

MANILA: A Filipino lawmaker has criticised Singapore over its exclusivity deal with American pop star Taylor Swift that made the Republic her only stop in South-East Asia on her Eras Tour.

Representative Joey Salceda on Feb 28 asked the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to formally protest the grant that the Singaporean Government authorised in exchange for Swift agreeing not to perform elsewhere in South-east Asia during her sold-out world tour.

“(This) isn’t what good neighbours do,” said Salceda in a media statement, adding that the city-state’s move is detrimental to its diplomatic relations with Manila.

Salceda, an economist who represents the province of Albay in Congress, chairs the House committee tasked to oversee Bills that generate government revenue. The legislator, who has earned a reputation in the Philippines for frequently shifting his political allegiances, is also known for latching onto political controversies and other trending issues.

“Our countries are good friends. That’s why actions like that hurt,” Salceda said.

Reporters have asked the DFA for comment on the lawmaker’s request, but it has yet to respond.

Some Swifties, as the singer-songwriter’s fans are called, were upset after Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin disclosed on Feb 16 that concert promoter Anschutz Entertainment Group told him the Singapore Government allegedly offered subsidies of up to US$3 million (S$4 million) for each concert. The subsidies were contingent on Swift not performing in other South-east Asian nations.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth later confirmed that the upcoming concerts had the support of the authorities, but stopped short of disclosing how much money had been pumped in for the pop star.

Kallang Alive Sport Management – which runs the National Stadium – had courted Swift’s team in early 2023 before any international tour venues had been confirmed for her world tour, and was later able to secure the Singapore-only dates.

The ministry and STB said the tourism sector is likely to benefit from Swift’s six-day concert in Singapore, for which more than 300,000 tickets have been sold. Swifties from all over the city-state and its South-east Asian neighbours are trooping to the National Stadium to watch the singer-songwriter perform her greatest hits.

While Salceda said the Philippines should oppose Singapore’s deal with Swift, he acknowledged that the “policy worked” for the city-state as it boosted hotel sales in Singapore, as well as air travel to the Republic.

He said this challenges Manila to improve its infrastructure to host concerts for world-class acts like Swift.

“In the long run, though, we need to step up our game,” Mr Salceda said.

Some Filipino Swifties who were saddened by Manila’s exclusion from The Eras Tour have been taking out their frustrations on social media over the past months.

Some lamented the Philippines’ lack of concert infrastructure that would have met the requirements needed to stage Swift’s concerts.

The largest concert venue in the country is the Philippine Arena, located some 25km to the north of the capital Manila. It has the same 55,000-seat capacity as Singapore’s National Stadium, but does not have the football field-sized staging area needed for The Eras Tour.

Filipino Swifties have scrambled to buy tickets for Swift’s concerts in neighbouring countries like Singapore, Japan and even Australia.

Alexandra Balane, a 26-year old Filipino Swiftie, said she was not surprised that her idol skipped Manila for the tour, owing to what the technical support specialist felt was the lack of facilities.

Yet she was still surprised to learn that Singapore was the only South-east Asian stop, as other nations in the region have large stadiums, too. However, this did not stop Ms Balane from buying tickets for Swift’s Singapore concerts on March 2 and 3.

While Balane does not agree with the proposal for the Philippines to dispute the Eras Tour issue on the diplomatic stage, she hopes the controversy will push her country to learn from Singapore’s strategy.

“Singapore is probably the only one with the infrastructure to deal with the amount of fans coming in and watching the show from basically everywhere in the world,” she said. “The Philippines would never have been able to host that”.

Luxury retail brand manager Leah Urtula, 29, was also disappointed that Swift will not be performing in Manila, but said she would rather watch her idol in Singapore anyway. She has tickets to the Singapore concert on March 7.

Urtula often watches her favourite performers’ concerts when they are held in the Philippines, but is aware of how issues like venue size, severe traffic jams and the lack of decent public transportation, have made it difficult for world-famous artists like Swift to stage performances here.

“I don’t think we have the venue for these types of concerts that require not just good lighting and sound systems, but also the infrastructure and capacity to handle the arrival of so many people... I’m sorry; I don’t think we’re ready,” said Urtula.

She added that Singapore’s deal with Swift was “business as usual” for a country that possesses the money and infrastructure to host the Eras Tour.

Feeling the sting of missing out on the benefits of Swiftonomics, leaders of some territories in the region have promised to step up to clinch world-class acts in the future.

Srettha said Thailand would offer visa-free travel and change its rules on drinking alcohol at concerts. Hong Kong leader John Lee said the city must be “relentless” in its efforts to lure mega events to its shores.

Salceda’s remarks about Singapore also came days after some 100 Filipino Swifties complained on social media that they had been scammed by someone purportedly selling Eras Tour tickets for Singapore.

In various social media posts, the victims said they met the seller, Patrick Steven Nanud Agoroto, through a Facebook group and booked not just their concert tickets, but also their flights and hotel accommodations through him. They said they thought he was legitimate as he had agreed to meet up with the buyers to sign contracts.

But they later figured out it was a scam when Agoroto claimed that all the concert tickets he had purchased were voided.

The victims have filed a case against the seller with the Philippines’ National Bureau of Investigation, which is looking into the matter. - The Straits Times/ANN

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