Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat.
Mau Aguasin courtesy of PEOPLEASIA magazine
Philippine tourism’s bright spot
THIS WEEK ON PEOPLEASIA - Babe Romualdez (The Philippine Star) - January 19, 2020 - 12:00am

When President Duterte named Bernadette “Berna” Romulo-Puyat as the new Tourism Secretary in May 2018, many people expressed their approval because of her credentials, her track record and her integrity.

She taught Economics in the University of the Philippines for nine years, and spent 12 years working at the Department of Agriculture as Undersecretary, which gave her the opportunity to interact with farmers all over the country. At the same time, her stint with the Agriculture department gave her the opportunity to know the unique attractions of each region and province she would visit.

Not many are aware that she also headed Malacañang’s Political Coalition Affairs during the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and spearheaded the government’s Botika ng Barangay project to bring quality affordable medicines to poor Filipinos.

No wonder then that the powerful Commission on Appointments only needed three minutes to decide on her confirmation, with Sen. Migz Zubiri vouching for the new Tourism Secretary because of her “integrity and hard work.” 

I am one of those who were really glad at Berna’s appointment as Tourism Secretary. When Max Soliven, the founding publisher of PeopleAsia magazine, was still alive, one of his good friends was Berna’s father, former Foreign Affairs secretary Alberto Romulo. Bert Romulo also became a good friend of mine, and I remember writing that his appointment as Foreign Affairs secretary was hailed by many diplomats especially as it came at a time when relations with the US were “sensitive” due to the pullout of RP troops from Iraq. He is someone who really lives up to the Romulo name, being a good and decent man.

As they say, the apple does not fall far from the tree, for Berna is as dedicated and hardworking, looking out for the welfare of farmers, fishermen and ordinary folk during her stint as Agriculture undersecretary. We are proud to have her as one of the “People of the Year” awardees of PeopleAsia magazine who are featured in the special December 2019-January 2020 issue. The awardees will be honored during the upcoming 2019 People of the Year Awards night, which has become one of the most anticipated events in the publishing industry.

 The travel and tourism industry is a key driver of economic growth, contributing $82 billion to the country’s economy or contributing nearly 25 percent share to total GDP in 2018 according to the latest report from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Tourism generates a lot of jobs for various sectors including real estate because the growing number of tourists pushes demand for new hotels and resorts. 

 We at the Philippine Embassy in Washington as well as the Consulates General in the US are also doing what we can to promote the country as a preferred travel destination. Every year, we have the VIP tour wherein visitors from the US are invited to experience the rich history, diverse culture and natural beauty of the Philippines. This year, the featured destinations will be Manila, Iloilo and Boracay.

Last December, the country welcomed its eighth millionth visitor a milestone that makes people confident that the Philippines will still achieve its target 12.5 million visitors by 2025 despite upcoming challenges such as the recent eruption of Taal Volcano in Batangas. Berna lost no time in monitoring the situation, checking with hotels and other accommodation establishments to ensure the safety of guests in Batangas, Tagaytay and Cavite.

Under her leadership, the tourism industry has a great opportunity to reach its full potential as a major contributor to the economy — without sacrificing social responsibility. As Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat put it, “We must strike a balance between economic opportunities and social responsibilities. We must ensure that any development in the tourism industry must not be undertaken at the expense of the environment, the tourists, and the host communities.”

BERNADETTE ROMULO-PUYAT
Philstar
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