- Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - May 11, 2018 - 12:00am

I must admit patience is not one of my strong virtues. Often, my biggest problem is that the rest of the world seems to be taking its sweet time.

My friend Joe Alejandrino sensed my impatience with the pace of Duterte’s reactions to reports of wrongdoing and incompetence among his Cabinet members. Joe is also one impatient guy. But he is extraordinarily patient when it comes to President Duterte.

We were on the same page with that bungling Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on the Kuwait diplomatic fiasco. Joe thinks Cayetano should be fired for what happened, but he realizes the President owes Cayetano a lot, having been one of the top campaign contributors.

But on the recently resigned tourism secretary, Joe contradicted my impression that the President would keep her. On the morning Philippine STAR reported that she had been fired, Joe sent me this message: “Boo, didn’t I tell you Duterte would do the right thing? Didn’t I tell you ‘she will go’? Trust the President. He knows what he is doing.”

Joe is probably right. It takes the President a while to make up his mind to fire Cabinet members, but he eventually comes around to doing it.

The previous justice secretary must have thought he was close enough to the President to be indispensable. But a series of wrong moves, climaxed by a decision to exonerate three drug lords, forced the President to do his duty.

As if that was not enough of a surprise, the President appointed someone who worked in Malacanang during the Aquino administration, was not from San Beda and not from Davao to head the justice department. The stellar reputation of the new justice secretary made skeptics like me take notice.

This makes me wonder when he will fire his foreign secretary. A diplomatic delegation to Kuwait to fix the problems Cayetano created included the labor secretary and Harry Roque. But Cayetano was sidelined even if this is obviously a matter classified as foreign affairs. He is just too thick skinned to resign.

On corruption, social media is now afire with demands that the resigned tourism secretary and the officials of PTV4, including the Secretary of the Presidential Communications Office, should also be investigated and charged. The return of the funds is beside the point. What they did should have consequences.

I told my friend Joe I will try to be more patient. But patience is a vice in a country that needs to change fast. Waiting is a luxury we cannot afford. Joe assures me Duterte knows that.


I got this contrary comment to my column last week calling for the dismantling of the tourism department. In fairness, here is a Facebook post by Randi Alampay:

I can feel his anger and frustration. But I have to disagree with Boo Chanco. The World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that the travel and tourism industry generated around 2.348 M jobs, accounting for 8.7 percent of GDP with a direct contribution of P1.377 B in 2017. If any one industry deserves a seat in the Cabinet — travel and tourism does.

But that is a point that many observers miss. Travel and tourism is NOT one industry. T&T have significant links to agriculture, fishing, construction, creative industries, IC/T, transportation (of course), etc.

 If properly developed, travel and tourism can be a powerful vehicle for inclusive growth because of all these linkages and the relatively low barriers to entry for employment and livelihood in many areas. Including the indirect and induced effects, WTTC estimated the travel and tourism sector’s total contribution to employment at 7.79M jobs.

Thus, the Philippines needs a Department of Tourism not only to market the country as a destination, but also, and more importantly, coordinate with other departments (DPWH, DOTR, DTI, DENR, DA, DILG) to ensure that the local destinations and tourism industries will have the infrastructure and support programs they need. The required level of inter-departmental support and coordination would simply not be possible without a seat on the Cabinet.

That said, I do agree with Boo, that the department needs a radical reconstruction. A good first step would be to reboot and cleanse DOT and its attached agencies of political appointees who manage government programs like their own personal households (apparently, literally).

I’ve long argued that the organization is top-heavy and too centralized. A leaner central office with more empowered, properly-resourced regional offices would likely be more effective in achieving our goal of spreading the benefits of tourism to more parts of the country.

Keep TPB and TIEZA under professional management and empower these organizations to do what they can do best -- marketing the Philippines as a destination for visitors and for investments.

Oops... I said keep TPB under professional management. Sorry, I meant “return to.”

Sec Berna Romulo Puyat

One good move of the President is the appointment of Agriculture Usec Berna Romulo Puyat as the new tourism secretary. The difference between the new and the old is like night and day.

I expect Berna to run the tourism department with the highest standards of ethics in the public service. Expect ultimate transparency. She will do nothing that will besmirch the legacy of exemplary public service of her family.

She has performed very well at the agriculture department and should do even better at tourism. She has traveled the country far and wide as an agriculture official. I don’t think any tourism secretary had been to as many nook and cranny of this country as she has. Expect her to be passionate in selling a country she knows so well.  

Don’t let her beauty and charm make you think she is a pushover. Berna is tough and intelligent. She is an honor graduate of the UP School of Economics. Expect intelligent leadership at tourism.

President Duterte is right. Berna is someone we can be proud of as she represents the country in the international stage.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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