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

The backlash presents a new headache for Singapore-based Sea, already beset by ballooning losses,

Sea Ltd.’s e-commerce business Shopee faced boycott calls from Philippine consumers after naming a staunch supporter of the country’s president, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., as its brand ambassador.

Shopee announced Thursday that Filipina actress and singer Toni Gonzaga, who hosted campaign rallies for Marcos, was its new brand ambassador. That 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 about 340,000 tweets about the company as of Friday morning, with some users defending 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 Ltd.

A spokesperson for Shopee was not immediately able to comment on the issue. A Philippine Daily Inquirer report quoted a Shopee representative as saying that Gonzaga was chosen for her “mass appeal,” not for her political leanings. Gonzaga said in a Philippine Star report that she’s “grateful” for the mentions and engagements.

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

Shopee ranked first by average monthly active users in the shopping category in Southeast Asia, Sea said in its quarterly earnings report, citing analysis from data.ai.

Marcos Jr. won 59% of votes during the May elections, but he’s opposed by a minority concerned by alleged corruption and human rights abuses during the dictatorship of his father.

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