Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said she asked the COA to step in after she discovered that “hundreds of millions” were spent questionably during the time of former tourism secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo.
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Overspending shocks DOT chief
Robertzon Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - May 20, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat could not help but cry after she found out how the budget of the department was spent by its former officials.

In an interview, Puyat said she has sent a letter to the Commission on Audit (COA) requesting for a third party investigation not only into the projects of the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) but all ongoing projects of the department.

Puyat said she asked the COA to step in after she discovered that “hundreds of millions” were spent questionably during the time of former tourism secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo.

“Nabibigla lang ako dahil everyday may nadi-discover ako, so parang nakakalungkot lang, kasi ang laki-laki ng pera ng pinag-uusapan, hindi lang one million, two million kundi hundreds of millions (I am just shocked because everyday I discover something, so I feel sad because we are talking about huge amounts of money, not just one million, two million but hundreds of millions),” Puyat said.

During Teo’s tenure, Puyat said she discovered some fashion shows abroad and events hosted by close friends of the former tourism secretary were funded by the Department of Tourism (DOT).

Teo also hosted a golf tournament.

“I have to check the travels also. Pera ng taong bayan’yan. Hindi ka pumasok sa gobyerno para mag-around the world. Hindi mo kailangang ng isang battalion, mayroon ka isang battalion ng attachés (That’s the people’s money. You don’t join government to go around the world. You don’t need a battalion of attachés),” Puyat said in an interview with ABS-CBN News.

Puyat’s statement came after she learned about the international trips of the former DOT officials.

Resignations tendered

As this developed, Puyat said all the undersecretaries and assistant secretaries who served under Teo have resigned.

Puyat told The STAR in a text message that the officials appointed during the time of Teo submitted their letters of resignation last Friday afternoon.

Teo, who was reportedly fired, said she resigned amid the controversy involving the P60-million advertisements of the DOT placed in her brother’s television show.

Puyat’s first memorandum as new DOT chief was to ask the department’s top officials to submit their courtesy resignation.

Former tourism assistant secretary and spokesman Ricky Alegre was the first among the officials to step down. Alegre was appointed to the position on Sept. 5, 2016.

The other assistant secretaries of the DOT were Maria Lourdes Japson, Daniel Mercado, Eden Josephine David and Arlene Mancao while the undersecretaries were Kat de Castro, Alma Rita Jimenez, Marco Bautista and Pompee La Viña.

La Viña was appointed only last April 24.

Puyat refused to comment when asked for potential candidates for the vacant positions, but she previously endorsed Art Boncato to be her undersecretary for regions’ affairs.

She also said she will retain Benito Bengzon, undersecretary for tourism development planning because of his experience, and wants him to become the department spokesman, replacing Alegre.

COMMISSION ON AUDIT DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM TOURISM PROMOTIONS BOARD
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