Giving the best Phl experiences

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

The country’s political pot suddenly started a-brewing at the House of Representatives and threatening to spill over to the other branches of the government. Just one year after the May 2022 national and local elections, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (PBBM), however, dismissed them as nothing but normal “run-of-the-mill” leadership changes in Congress.

But it was seen as the imminent break-up of the so-called UniTeam forged by PBBM’s Partido Federal with his runningmate Vice President Sara Duterte who joined and ceremonially became honorary chairperson of the Lakas-CMD. PBBM though downplayed the current jockeying in the 19th Congress that saw the demotion of his chief ally, former president and currently Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) from being Senior Deputy Speaker.

GMA was accused of her supposed plot to oust presidential first cousin Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin as House Speaker. Romualdez is the incumbent president of the Lakas-CMD. VP Duterte resigned from the Lakas-CMD. GMA though stayed on with the Lakas-CMD as chairperson emeritus.

Amid the ruckus, Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Christina Garcia-Frasco, who once served as the official spokesperson of then VP candidate Sara Duterte, would not be drawn into this on-going political brouhaha. Politics is farthest from the mind and priorities of the DOT Secretary. Featured guest in our Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum last Wednesday, Frasco shrugged off politics around her.

“My focus is my duty to the country and that is to ensure tourism transformation for the Philippines, ensure that tourism goes beyond politics and that I perceived to be the greatest strength of the Philippine tourism industry (SIC),” Frasco pointed out. “No matter your political inclination, we are all stakeholders for Philippine tourism,” she stressed.

“I’m very pleased to know that our President and Vice President continue to espouse this message of unity and hope for our country… Therefore, I continue to espouse the message of both our President Bongbong Marcos and our Vice President Sara Duterte the message of unity and hope because there is so much to hope for in the Philippine tourism industry,” the DOT Secretary cited.

“No matter the politics of the day, tourism will always prevail in the hearts and minds of fellow Filipinos because it is such a great source of hope and optimism for every Filipinos,” she stressed.

The 41-year-old Frasco was handpicked by PBBM in June last year as DOT chief. A lawyer, Frasco served three terms as the Mayor of the municipality of Liloan in Cebu. Her home province first earned the monicker “Ce-boom” because of its fast growing local economy with tourism as the main economic driver.

Frasco belongs to the powerful political family in Cebu currently headed by her mother, Governor Gwen Garcia. Her mother first served as Cebu’s 3rd congressional district representative from 2013 to 2019 and concurrently served as a House Deputy Speaker from 2016 to 2018. Secretary Frasco’s husband, Cebu Rep. Duke Frasco is currently one of the House Deputy Speakers. Incidentally, the DOT Secretary is the granddaughter of the late House deputy speaker Rep. Pablo Garcia.

Thus, she has the best mentors in national and local politics. Frasco gladly admitted she feels “very privileged and fortunate” to learn from them the ropes of politics and public service. “At the same time taking the lessons I learn from them, I try to work as hard as I can to make an impact in the brief time I have had in tourism,” she pointed out.

A mother of four children, Frasco points to her personal slogan “padayon” (Cebuano word meaning move forward) in tackling the difficulties and challenges of her tasks as DOT chief.

“Because I feel learning from my family, there is no substitute for hard work,” the DOT chief enthused.

In fact, the DOT Secretary is principally tasked to implement the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) for the years 2023 to 2028 that PBBM and the entire Cabinet approved last week. Frasco vows to carry out the plan in accordance with the goals of the NTDP in the next five years of the six-year term of the Marcos administration.

The DOT has lined up a series of launching activities this year of the various tourism campaign promotion programs. According to her, the DOT linked up with the Department of Information and Communications (DICT) for the digitalization and connectivity needs of tourists in our archipelagic country. So far, she noted, 46 of out of 94 tourist destinations, including emerging and lesser-known tourist spots are now “powered up” with free public wifi system.

To cap the 50th founding anniversary of the agency they celebrated last May 10, Frasco will lead the launching of the “Hop-On Hop-Off” bus tours that will bring passengers to tourist sites around Metro Manila. The launching will be held this Sunday at Glorietta-2 at the Ayala Malls in Makati City. The term ‘hop on, hop off” (HOHO) bus tour is a convenient and hassle-free way to see all the top attractions in a city. There is already HOHO bus tour that operates in Boracay which Frasco describes as one of our country’s “tourism gems” that is most famous around the world.

In collaboration with the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), the DOT launched in January this year the “Bisita Be My Guest,” a travel incentive program encouraging our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and Filipinos with dual citizenship living in the Philippines, or in abroad as residents, to invite their foreign relatives, friends and colleagues to visit the Philippines. According to Frasco, participants will be entitled to a raffle ticket and will have the chance to win condo unit and cash prizes as well the opportunities to avail of discounts/special rates during the campaign promo period running until April 30, 2024.

Giving the best experiences – not just “It is more fun in the Philippines” – as a country brand is still a work in progress for now while Frasco brainstorms it with all tourism stakeholders.

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