• A portrait of a Tourism secretary as failure

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    KATRINA STUART SANTIAGO

    For almost a year now, we have listened to a Department of Tourism (DoT) headed by Secretary Wanda Tulfo Teo, that has no vision, no gameplan, no clear sense of what tourism is even supposed to be about, given the state of the nation.

    You listen to Teo speaking with Pinky Webb on CNN Philippines and you realize she still knows absolutely nothing a year into her job. All she has as far as a tourism plan is concerned is an excitement about the investments that are coming in from China, and the interest in having international beauty pageants in the Philippines again and again.

    Neither of those two things is what a sustainable, pro-people, environmental tourism plan makes. But what would someone with no credentials know?

    The only two qualifications of Mrs. Teo to become DoT Secretary are: (1) she owned a travel agency for Mt. Apo hikers which meant inevitably contributing to the degradation of this protected area, and (2) she’s a Tulfo.

    In the same way that cultural positions were distributed among those who campaigned for Duterte, the Department of Tourism was a prize given to Mrs. Teo for absolutely no reason other than her connections.

    As with many of those appointees, Mrs. Teo is not only clueless about her job and department, she is also, undoubtedly, wasting public funds.

    Pageantry and nothing else
    Mrs. Teo was oh so excited about the possibility of having Miss Universe here again, if not Miss World! Never mind that the DOT has yet to prove that the last Miss Universe was beneficial to the nation.

    And no, Mrs. Teo, you being told elsewhere in the world that they know the Philippines because of Miss Universe just doesn’t fly. Because while Miss Universe was happening here, there was barely any global media mileage or coverage – save for that time Miss Canada was body-shamed by our media.

    You were also not only supposed to have a feasibility study on having that pageant, you were also supposed to have a post-event assessment, all transparent, so that the public knows how much of taxpayers’ money went into DoT sponsoring that pageant.

    Because you don’t get away with saying we did not put out a single cent for the last Miss Universe. That is a lie. Every DoT press conference, every DoT coverage of the Miss Universe, every instance in which YOU and your DoT team were focused on Miss Universe instead of something else – that was our public funds paying YOU to do your jobs.

    And I’m pretty sure your job is not to keep sponsoring Miss Universe (or any other pageant) in the country for the undefined, un-proven notion that it “promotes” the Philippines. If at all, it promotes Chavit Singson. And how much did he earn using national DoT resources exactly?

    Yeah, you haven’t told us that either. And yet here you are already planning another international pageant in place of actually doing your job.

    Excited about thoughtless investments
    Mrs. Teo also believes in, is supportive of (and don’t forget excited about!) all the investments that are coming in from China that will happen in the form of casinos, condominiums, theme parks, hotels in our tourist destinations. It seems she is clueless about the kind of tourism that is also happening in China, with a specific thrust on heritage conservation and natural and sustainable tourism development.

    Sure there are problems as well, as with the degradation of the Great Wall of China, and the pollution in the city centers. Yet passing through the provinces of Suhzou and Dezhou before heading for Beijing in 2015, what struck me most about China were the decisions it obviously makes to consider rivers and forests, natural reserves and parks, as heritage sites that should be left untouched by development. In Suhzou, the new modern museum stood alongside old parks and reserves; in Dezhou the main highway stands parallel to rivers and streams and forests.

    One wonders why we do not negotiate for these same projects that do not kill the environment, that work with existing resources, and in fact ensure their protection and survival for years to come.

    That’s because Mrs. Teo doesn’t know any better. How will a person who knows nothing about the various possibilities for tourism, who does not know about sustainability and environmental preservation, who has never spoken about heritage and cultural preservation, how can she know to negotiate with countries like China for tourism investments that are created specifically for our existing natural resources and reserves, our beaches and forests and heritage structures?

    Killing the environment
    In fact, Mrs. Teo is so clueless, so un-learned, that she still thinks it’s a good thing that Nickolodeon will continue its project of constructing something or other in Coron Palawan – even as we raised our fists against this last year.

    I imagine any government official worth her salt would have already asked her team to do a feasibility study on developments like this one in places like Coron. Ah, but Mrs. Teo defies imagination. She says the corals will be protected, because the restaurant will not be in the sea, it will be floating on its waters.

    About which you wonder: does Mrs. Teo imagine that constructing a floating restaurant will not disrupt the corals at all? That construction and development will not ruin the ecology of Coron? She also says that this won’t just be a floating restaurant, but also a condominium and/or hotel on Coron land – something that excites her as well.

    Does Mrs. Teo realize how terrible things are in Boracay at this point?

    Of course not. Mrs. Teo is the most oblivious, ill-informed, incompetent government official there is. Right up there with Martin Andanar.

    But while Mr. Andanar is just a waste of taxpayers’ money, Mrs. Teo’s ignorance will also be responsible for killing the environment, slaughtering our natural resources, and desecrating heritage sites. Her time in government will mean losses that are far larger, with repercussions that we will suffer for generations to come.

    The President’s anti-mining stance is based on how it kills the environment. He should be looking at how the DoT is complicit in doing exactly that, too.

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    6 Comments

    1. JACK B GARCIA on

      One step forward (which was during the Jimenez days at the DoT, he who knew that tourism is very much a marketing game, while refining THE product), as against three or four or even five steps backward thanks to a new DoT secretary who doesn’t have a strategy at all to make sure that we will hit the ever elusive millions we have been wanting to achieve.

      A secretary who doesn’t love her country enough to be an advocate of sustainability.

      Dear Ms. Teo, when I went to Coron one image that I saw (and is forever in my memory bank) is a banner to an entrance to a stunning cove three storeys high of limestone and water as clear as a newly filtered swimming pool – and what does it say? ‘ WE DON’T WANT TO BE ANOTHER BORACAY”

      and you dare endorse a theme park?

    2. Well written Your definitely right specially those people working for her at the Department. They do not know what their doing there. We had good program presented to Ms Kat De Castro last year its about promoting the wonders of each Cities and municipalities. The program had phenomenal effect increasing tourism to two cities in the Philippines namely Puerto Princesa Underground Rivet and Vigan City. What surprises me is that they ignored the program they did not even make an effiort or see what could be the benefit of the campaign to our Tourism industry. No brainer .

    3. eddie de leon on

      I salute you, Ms. Katrina Stuart Santiago for this very well-written piece. BRAVO! On several occasions, I have heard Ms. Teo talking during interviews on TV. To say that she is “too shallow” is an understatement. As his big boss says, “only the best and the brightest.” Of course, I am being sarcastic.

    4. Sorry to see DOT clueless about Sustainable Tourism development and stewardship! Badly needs training and education on Global Sustainable Tourism Council on sustainable destination management! Dear DOT, please uphold #TheCoronInitiative! Lead the right way forward for the Philippine tourism!

    5. PRRD has a limited network when it comes to knowing savvy communications and tourism people. No volunteers?

    6. To focus all resources/effort upon a dying brand – which is why miss universe is keen to get the philippines to host – and which hardly fits the visitor profile, and which only reinforces a bad stereotype of the philippines is ludicrous.

      This year (jan 2017) miss universe ratings down 18%, from 2016, which were themselves down 15% from 2015.

      Are the countries which watch – US and south america account for 90% of tv audience – the prime tourism targets!

      Is chavit singson the face of the philippines – he likes to be in every photo-op, but has a face suited to radio.

      Dirty old men exploiting young women for money.
      is there nothing more to the philippines?