New DOT chief takes hot seat

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MANILA, 16 May 2018:  Philippines’ new head of tourism,  Bernadette Fatima Romulo-Puyat, gained a welcome nod from travel industry associations this week, although she comes to the job as a complete outsider.

She was appointed secretary of the Department of Tourism (DOT), the highest tourism job in the Philippines after Wanda Corazon Teo resigned from the post last week.

She was undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture before taking on the tourism post, which has been mired by allegations of graft and corruption.

The new secretary predictably promised to investigate all complaints and allegations brought against the former secretary.

In an interview with Business Mirror, Cesar Cruz, president of the Philippine Tour Operators Association (Philtoa), told the daily newspaper: “Her experience as a civil servant and exposure in marketing and promotions provide a welcome relief for industry stakeholders who have been subjected to extraordinary challenges, from corruption scandals to the lack of policy direction, promotion and marketing programmes.”

Within a day of her appointment Romulo-Puyat  pledged to keep the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” brand campaign alive.

Tourism leaders described the allegations surrounding Teo’s departure as a distraction, claiming it was time to move on and support the ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines’, brand campaign.

Romulo-Puyat comes from a family of powerful civil servants, starting with her granduncle, the late statesman Carlos P. Romulo, and her father, former Senator and Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo. Her brother, Roman, is a former congressman of Pasig City.

She told reporters late last week that it was important for “government officials to stick to the rules and stay away from questionable deals.”

She has promised to go thoroughly over all projects and contracts signed under the administration of Wanda Corazon T. Teo.

“I really have to check everything and make sure there’s proper bidding, there’s transparency. I am definitely going to look at all the contracts.”

Teo resigned 7 May after a Commission on Audit report tagged a PHP 60-million payment by the People’s Television Network Inc. (PTV-4) to Bitag Unlimited Media Inc., owned by her brother Ben Tulfo, for not being covered by the required documents.

The funds, it was reported, came from the media placement contract. It has resulted in a comprehensive investigation of all the contracts signed by Teo and includes those with foreign companies and media.

(Source: Department of Tourism, Business Mirror)

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