The Philippines said on Monday it had abandoned a new tourism campaign that quickly turned into a public relations disaster amid allegations of plagiarism and links to pornography.
The tourism ministry announced it had ditched its "Pilipinas Kay Ganda" (Philippines What a Beauty) project after President Benigno Aquino added his voice to widespread criticism of the campaign.
"The Department of Tourism confirmed that it is shelving the 'Pilipinas Kay Ganda' concept. Majority of the stakeholders and general public do not support this concept. The message has been received," it said in a statement.
The campaign was only launched last week but it quickly came under fire with critics saying its logo plagiarised the one used in Poland's tourism campaign.
They also pointed out the domain name, www.beautifulpilipinas.com, was one letter removed from a pornographic site featuring Filipina women.
Aquino signalled on Saturday that the campaign would be aborted when he said there had been far too much criticism of it.
"The (tourism) stakeholders don't sound content. So probably, we need to do more than just fine-tune it. We should look for something more fitting," he told reporters.
The ministry said on Monday it had made an error in rushing the concept to the market.
"We were impatient and wanted to jumpstart our programme. That was a mistake," the statement said.
Tourism Minister Alberto Lim said last week his cash-strapped department had used a local advertising firm to create the new campaign for free.
Indicating a more thorough approach would be adopted, the ministry said in on Monday it would continue its search for an acceptable brand and the public would be asked to pitch in.
Suggestions would be short-listed for market testing and focus-group discussions to select the final brand, it added.
Manila-based tourism industry pundit Anton Diaz praised the ministry's decision to cut its losses, but told AFP the government could have acted faster.
"Actually during the launch it was already dead. A lot of people did not like it, and you do not need the (Philippine) president to tell you that," said Diaz, who writes a popular blog at www.ourawesomeplanet.com.
He said key officials behind the project could help restore confidence by resigning.
The Philippines has been struggling to shake off its image as a chaotic and unsafe destination after eight Hong Kong tourists taken hostage in August by an ex-policeman on a bus in Manila were killed in a botched police rescue.
Adding to the image problems, the United States, Australia, Canada, Britain, France and New Zealand warned their citizens this month of an alleged impending terrorist attack in the Philippines.
The Philippines protested the travel advisories, but the six countries have ignored Aquino's calls to withdraw them.