Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo Teo is evading a whole lot of questions when she says that government will not spend a single cent on hosting the Miss Universe pageant in the country.
The mere fact that the Department of Tourism (DOT) is all agog about finding sponsors, about doing press releases on this pageant, is already the Duterte government spending on the Miss Universe. This is a government office that should be putting together a real tourism plan, one that takes into consideration the crisis that tourism is faced with, interwoven as it is with environmental degradation, heritage destruction, and infrastructure underdevelopment.
For a pageant like Miss Universe, the DOT will be spending the rest of the next six months just working on this one thing, using whatever’s left of its P3.61 BILLION-peso budget for 2016. And you know this to be true because what else have we heard from the DOT since Secretary Teo was appointed?
Remember the City of Doral? No? Well, that was the host city of the 2015 Miss Universe pageant. That city government spent millions on the pageant, even when it promised its people that it would not spend taxpayers’ money. You know why the government spent money anyway? Because the cash raised from sponsors wasn’t enough, by which time it was too late, and the city put out millions in cash. They also ended up spending on security, logistics, food, and refreshments (MarketWatch.com 10 Sept 2015; Miami Herald 17 Jan 2015, 11 Sept 2015).
That none of us even remember the City of Doral also proves that where the DOT would like to make us believe this will improve tourism, in reality, there is no proof that this happens at all. In reality: official statistics show that there is no real growth in tourism due to Miss Universe.
Fact: in 1994, when we held the Miss Universe here, there was no tourism growth from 1993. And it didn’t grow either in 1995 or 1996. So no long-term growth either.
Fact: in 1994, while we had Miss Universe, our ASEAN neighbors launched real tourism programs. The Philippines ranked lowest in that list that includes Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.
You know what else these countries had going for them? They built infrastructure for tourists before inviting them to come over.
Secretary Teo meanwhile seems to care little about our problem with infrastructure, and the kind of stress this will put the public through. Not to mention the losses this will mean for nation, when we can barely go about our days without going through heavy traffic.
Fact: We already lose P3 billion pesos a day on heavy traffic. We have yet to be able to measure the cost of the exhaustion of the populace.
Fact: Paydays and rainy days, a concert in the Mall of Asia or Araneta Coliseum, an Iglesia Ni Cristo event in Bulacan or the CCP complex, already means traffic at a standstill. A long-drawn event like Miss Universe? Imagine the kind of suffering the public will be subjected to.
And how else are we going to “welcome” these special guests than by speaking of our overused, worn-out notion of hospitality, where we the people suffer, just so our guests can experience “the best” we can offer?
Fiction and delusion
Rep. Yedda Romualdez of Leyte says: “The immediate and long-term livelihood and economic opportunities which the pageant can bring into the country should be of more vital consideration as we look forward to a successful hosting [of Miss Universe]” (ABSCBNNews.com, 1 July).
More vital than what? The excessive display of pomp and pageantry in a time of hunger and poverty?
And what economic opportunities? The Miss Universe pageant is a well-oiled capitalist machine. It picks a venue based on which country and city can ensure for them a big enough profit margin. As with the City of Doral, it requires that sponsorship funds are turned over to the pageant, which in turn is not required to deliver a transparent accounting of anything at all.
FACT: Miss Universe does not only earn from sponsorships. It also earns from the franchise fee which all countries who join the pageant are required to pay, and the franchise fee that the host country will also have to pay. Which begs the question: who’s paying this for the Philippines? And while we’re at it: how much are we spending on the security and logistical requirements of hosting this pageant?
And no: Miss Universe will not employ locals. This is a full production that travels, which means that part of production cost is spent on bringing in foreigners to do the work. So no, it’s not even going to employ any of us in the short-term.
Why again do we insist on having this pageant here?
Pomp, pageantry, pretense
Rep. Romualdez continues: “Most of all, foreign media will be present. So our country, our wonders and what we have to offer will enjoy worldwide exposure. This can translate to a wider foreign market, an increase in tourist arrivals and hopefully, new business investments by foreign investors.”
Prove it. Prove that in 1994, the Miss Universe brought in foreign investors. Prove that this is what happened in Florida in 2015, in Russia in 2013, in Brazil in 2011. I have a feeling that this is nothing but spin and propaganda ala Daang Matuwid. In fact, this reeks of pageantry ala Imelda Marcos during Martial Law.
As for foreign media presence, that to me might be the upside. At least foreign media will have the opportunity to witness what it’s really like living in this country, poverty and hunger and all. They can witness the truth that outside of those beautiful sights and sounds, there is a garbage problem in Boracay, congestion and uncontrolled development in Cebu, environmental degradation in Palawan. And let’s not forget the infamous killings on every street in the name of this war against the poor, este, against drugs. Take pictures and send it out for all the world, rather the universe, to see!
Here in the Philippines, we will host the Miss Universe on the backs of the poor, on the suffering of the working class, so that we can build the pretense that we are a stable, productive nation. We are doing it because two women, Wanda and Yedda, want to do an Imelda.
Yup, change has come.