Tourism overhaul: Chief replaced amid extravagance, anomalies
President Duterte fired Teo in May 2018 a few months after she was implicated in anomalies including the alleged extravagant foreign trips and the controversial P60-million advertising contract that involved the production company owned by her brother Ben who had a program in the government television station PTV-4.
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Tourism overhaul: Chief replaced amid extravagance, anomalies
Robertzon Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - December 28, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — It was a tumultuous year for the Department of Tourism, as Wanda Teo was booted out as secretary and the DOT failed to meet its target of 7.4 million tourist arrivals owing to the six-month closure of the world-famous Boracay Island.

“Despite the challenges that we faced (and) with the closure of Boracay – the performance (of the DOT) has been very good,” said Bong Bengzon, undersecretary for tourism and development planning.

From January to September, Bengzon said the Philippine economy performed well at eight percent, which is two to three percent higher than the global and Asian average growth rate.

Bengzon said that the DOT’s positive performance in 2018 was due to the overwhelming support of the private sectors that have done their part to promote the country’s tourist attractions here and abroad.

President Duterte fired Teo in May 2018 a few months after she was implicated in anomalies including the alleged extravagant foreign trips and the controversial P60-million advertising contract that involved the production company owned by her brother Ben who had a program in the government television station PTV-4.

The advertising contract was allegedly overpriced and critics claimed that deal is a conflict of interest on Teo’s side, considering that her brother was involved in the reported anomalous project.

After firing Teo, Duterte assigned Bernadette Romulo-Puyat as her replacement.

Puyat, appointed in May 2018, discovered several anomalies in the agency including the implementation of the P320-million “Buhay Carinderia” project of Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) and the “World’s Strongest Man,” among others.

She then requested the Commission on Audit (COA) to review all the projects of the DOT a few weeks after she assumed office and let the Office of the Ombudsman do its job concerning the government officials involved.

The investigation has prompted the resignation of several DOT undersecretaries and high-ranking officials.

The DOT also failed to achieve its 7.4 tourist arrival target for 2018 after the country’s top attraction Boracay Island was closed to tourists upon orders of Duterte to pave way for the clean-up and rehabilitation of the already polluted and crowded tourist spot.

“I am not confident, though it has been increasing, we have to admit that the closure of Boracay [has affected the target]. I am confident that it will surpass the previous years, but I don’t think it will reach 7.4 million,” Puyat said.

Puyat said the interagency task force created to rehabilitate Boracay has set a carrying capacity of 6,450 tourists per day on the island, which gradually affected arrivals for 2018.

With this, the DOT was compelled to review the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) for its 8.2-million tourist arrival target for 2019 along with the Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP).

The DOT along with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) have also ordered the rehabilitation of other top tourist destinations in the country and closed non-compliant tourism-related establishments.

For 2019, Puyat said the DOT is rooting for a refreshed “It’s More Fun in The Philippines” campaign and sustainable tourism industry for both domestic and foreign travelers.

BORACAY ISLAND DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM
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