Sea's Shopee faces boycott calls in Philippines over brand ambassador

Filipina actress and singer Toni Gonzaga has hosted campaign rallies for Mr Ferdinand Marcos Jr. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM TONI GONZAGA STUDIO/YOUTUBE

SINGAPORE - Sea Limited's e-commerce business Shopee faces boycott calls from Philippine consumers after naming a staunch supporter of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr as its brand ambassador.

Shopee announced on Thursday that Filipina actress and singer Toni Gonzaga, who hosted campaign rallies for Mr Marcos, was its new brand ambassador. This led to calls on social media to stop using the shopping app.

The hash-tags #ByeShopee and #BoycottShopee became top trends on Twitter in the Philippines, with around 340,000 tweets about the company as at Friday morning. Some users defended the firm.

The second-most popular topic involved posts calling on shoppers to switch to Lazada, a rival e-commerce platform owned by Alibaba Group Holding.

A spokesman for Shopee was not immediately able to comment on the issue. A Philippine Daily Inquirer report quoted a Shopee representative as saying that Ms Gonzaga was chosen for her "mass appeal", not for her political leanings.

Ms Gonzaga said in a Philippine Star report that she was "grateful" for the mentions and engagements.

The backlash presents a new headache for Singapore-based Sea, already beset by ballooning losses that have forced it to lay off employees and retreat from the Latin America market. Its shares traded in New York are down 76 per cent this year.

Shopee ranked first by average monthly active users in the shopping category in South-east Asia, Sea said in its quarterly earnings report, citing analysis from data.ai, a consumer and market data platform.

Mr Marcos won 59 per cent of votes during the May elections, but he was opposed by a minority concerned by alleged corruption and human rights abuses during the dictatorship of his father. BLOOMBERG

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