Duterte’s decision to close Boracay

Perhaps one can say that this piece is already water under the bridge since President Rodrigo Duterte has already approved the recommendation of the three government agencies, namely, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Tourism (DOT), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to close the resort island of Boracay for six months.

The description by no less than the president of the famed place as “cesspool” indeed decidedly put a halt to the influx of tourist to the place.

“You go into the water, it’s smelly. Smells of what? Sh*t,” he had said.

Pretty strong and unfavorable words for the local government and stakeholders, but they all had it coming.

I am not writing this to discuss the inadequacies and ineptness of those governing and running their private entities while thinking only of the windfall of earnings they can make at the expense of the tourist who simply wants to experience fun in the Philippines, and the much talked about Boracay in particular, for this issue has received quite a beating already.

But it is perhaps proper and timely to mention here that the shortcomings, the myopic vision, and the vested interests of their own concerns took a toll on the environment, which is an important facet of tourism.

What I want to talk about, therefore, which certainly is not water under the bridge, is in the context of the urgency and necessity of the Boracay closure.

We must admit that the problems that caused embarrassment to Boracay, famous for its powdery white sand and shallow azure water, did not happen overnight, or to put it straightforward, during Duterte’s presidency.

It has been reported that Boracay’s degradation has been blamed on the failure of the local government to enforce ordinances on marine conservation, garbage and sanitation, and zoning and construction, among others.

Also, that at least 300 hotels, resorts and inns have been ignoring an ordinance that requires them to build their own sewage and wastewater treatment facilities. They have instead been dumping waste into canals meant only for rainwater and surface overflow.

Another upsetting revelation is that four of the nine wetlands on the island, meanwhile, are occupied by a shopping mall, a hotel and around 100 illegal settlers.

Talking about impunity by both the governing body and the governed!

While past administrations acted like the three proverbial monkeys exemplifying the proverbial principle of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”, Duterte used his leadership and political will to make a difference in Boracay.

After all, it is the long range plan of sustaining the grandeur of Boracay for the country’s tourism industry that matters most.



Zamboanga conflict taking Fun out in the Philippines


logoWith the Zamboanga conflict still unsolved, there seems to be a deafening silence from the Department of Tourism (DOT) in promoting tourism and proclaiming to the whole world that IT’S MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES.

I have written a few blogs about the country’s tourism slogans, both past and present, and expressed my two cents worth of opinion about them. An example is this link: https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/the-philippines-is-fun-wow/.

Suffice to say that the latest slogan, a brainchild of DOT Sec. Ramon Jimenez, has not been able to convince me totally that it is, indeed, a tailor-made slogan for the country as I find it too exaggerated and pretentious.

What made me skeptical about it is the adjective used to describe the fun – ‘MORE’.

How could it be MORE FUN compared to other countries in the region when fun is relative?

I think when you make a pitch for tourism, the gist is on the allure of the place – what is captivating about it that you get ‘seduced’ to visit it and get awed by what makes it the country that it is.

That is the essence of every country’s tourism propaganda.

We can be a fun country, why not? But, that IT’S MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES is certainly not the case.

Our uniqueness as a country, dubbed as The Pearl of the Orient Seas, is tantalizing enough for a foreign tourist to book a flight and experience the sights and sounds of the place.

One can even be awed by the country’s internal conflict in Zamboanga City, perhaps, unbelieving that it could happen in an exotic place like the Philippines.

But, MORE FUN is not what it is. Not to the Zamboangueños. Not even to some of our brother Muslims. And, certainly, not to the freedom-loving Filipinos.

So how could it be MORE FUN, generally, in the Philippines?

Let me tell you when IT’S MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES:

When dust settles down in Zamboanga City, Nur Misuari, Habier Malik and the rest of the rebels are either dead or captured and jailed with no discussions of mercy whatsoever.

When prosecution of the PDAF scam goes unhampered, and, in fact, fast tracked, so that most of the senior citizens in this country can still witness Janet Lim-Napoles, Tanda, Pogi and Sexy and the rest of the culprits involved being found guilty and meted out with sentences that will see them incarcerated and disgraced from their lofty and mighty positions.

When PDAF will no longer be a milking cow of corrupt lawmakers and other shameless public officials.

When political dynasties will be a thing of the past. (Hopefully without no longer any PDAF, as suggested, creation of dynasties among the wealthy politicians stop.)

When ridiculous thespians can only be seen in the small and big screens and never in the Halls of Congress.

When stupid people stop giving celebrities elective positions.

 Lastly, when MORE is removed from DOT’s overambitious and stilted Philippine tourism slogan.

PCGG wants Imelda jewels displayed for tourism


Rep. Imelda Marcos with daughter, Ilocos Gov. Imee Marcos and son, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos

The idea of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to have the Department of Tourism (DOT) exhibit Imelda Marcos’ jewelry collection at the Metropolitan Museum in Manila to attract tourist is not only absurd, but, likewise, a continuing insult to the sensitivities of the Filipinos who have experienced the darkest years of the Marcos regime.

It is bad enough that we still have Imelda in our midst, who together with her children, Imee, Bongbong and Irene, are back in their glory days, both in politics and in their private, ritzy lives, but it is even worst that we still have around also the matriarch’s gems that are part and parcel of the ill-gotten wealth that government was able to recover.

I say worst because these precious stones continue to exist in this country as a symbol of brutality, corruption and opulence, which was the political and lifestyle of the Marcoses during his despotic rule.

It could have been disposed of a long time ago and the money used to indemnify the victims of martial law and the excess, perhaps, to replenish the government’s coffers of what has been pilfered.

Since the early 1990s, attempts were already made to have Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction these jewels off, but there were always contretemps intervening, such as legal impediments, disputes, and failure to meet the terms with the international auctioneers.

It came to a point that even Imelda herself was allowed to ask a Manila court to issue an injunction against the auction, claiming the jewelry belonged to her, with some pieces being family heirlooms.

According to PCGG Chairman Andres Bautista, Imelda’s jewel collections, which are presently kept in the vault of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, are divided into three caches, namely:

  • The Malacañang collection which has roughly 300 pieces that were left behind in Imelda’s closets when the Marcoses hurriedly left in 1986.
  • The Honolulu collection containing at least 400 pieces that were sized by the United States Bureau of Customs from the Marcoses when they fled to Hawaii.
  • The collection named after Imelda’s Greek accomplice, Demetriou Roumeliotes, who was caught by Philippine authorities trying to spirit 60 pieces of jewelry out of the country a few weeks after the Marcoses left the country.

It seems even harder now to have these gems auctioned with Imelda in Congress and her son, a senator of the realm. Perhaps, this is what is invigorating Imelda, believing that one day she could have back her jewels. As it is, she will do everything in her power not to have these jewels leave the country, for one reason or another.

Bautista hopes that with the new Ombudsman, the new Chief Justice and the secretary of justice, they will have better chances in winning cases and getting rid of these beautiful, yet ugly reminders of our horrible past.

What I hope is that all these heads of government’s legal agencies will exercise both political courage and political will to pursue and win cases, and put closure to this remaining remnant of excesses by the Marcoses.

While Bautista’s concern is much appreciated, it will not do the country any good, however, in promoting Imelda’s jewels as tourist attraction.

Let DOT Secretary Ramon Jiminez Jr. continue promoting what is good, pleasant and fun in the Philippines, without putting fanfare at Imelda’s jewels.



‘Migz’ Zubiri as tourism chief will be boon for country


Ex-senator Juan Miguel 'Migz' Zubiri

We are at the crossroads where we want the country’s tourism industry to take off and soar high.

At the same time, we find ourselves in the same crossroads where we have to decide and choose intelligently the right person, who possesses the acumen needed to propel the tourism industry to greater heights.

For a country that has many diverse tourist attractions to offer, and many more, perhaps, undiscovered to be developed as potential magnet for foreign visitors, we are doing poorly when compared to tourist destinations in neighboring countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

It is not really a matter of having the best slogan that will catch the attention of the whole world, which is your market, but it has more to do with who is at the helm of this department.

It will recognize President Benigno Aquino’s leadership and it will be a tremendous boast to the country if he will adopt a non-partisan stand in his choice for the Department of Tourism (DOT) secretary.

Among those whose names are being floated as candidates for the position, like, Ramon Jimenez of the UP College of Fine Arts and founder of an award-winning advertising firm, former Akbayan Party-list representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, former Malabon representative Ruffy Biazon and TV host Boy Abunda, nobody really comes close to the leadership, understanding, vision and wisdom of recently resigned senator Juan Miguel ‘Migz’ Zubiri, brought about by his long association with and service in government.

Unfortunately, Zubiri belongs on the other side of the political fence.

But who is better equipped and honed for the position of tourism secretary than Migz Zubiri, who, with his amiable personality, political connections, economic foresight and environmental advocacies, should know how and to what direction the industry has to be steered.

Zubiri can best convince President Aquino that for tourism to flourish it must have the support of other government agencies to make sure that tourism infrastructure are in place when needed. This is to include the peace and order of the destinations.

Tourism industry is a potential engine of economic growth, next only to the Oversea Filipino Worker’s (OFW) remittances. It has to be sustained by nurturing and developing it the best we can for it is only in increasing tourist arrivals to our shores that the country can generate revenue that could in turn create jobs.

Zubiri’s personality and popularity, his experience and accomplishments, and, most of all, his well documented concern for the environment is what is needed at the helm of the tourism industry.

DOT’s new gimmick: “Pilipinas, Tara Na”

New Philippine tourism logo

Some time late last year I voiced out my disapproval of the Department of Tourism’s attempt to change its tourism slogan of WOW Philippines to “Pilipinas, Kay Ganda.”

Criticism actually mounted against this new slogan that President Benigno Aquino intervened and advised the various stakeholders and Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim to drop the newly conceived catch phrase.

Not to be outdone in there quest to have a slogan identified to be their own, Sec. Lim has come up with another gimmick saying, “Pilipinas, Tara Na,” (Pilipinas, Let’s Go), purposely meant to encourage Filipinos to travel within the Philippines rather than visit other countries.

“We want to put a little more emphasis on domestic (travel) because it’s the backbone of tourism,” Lim said.

I have no problem with that, but why make the slogan in Filipino language when English is the much more used and understood language in the world and our target market is the world outside us?

Besides, not to be pretentious about it, but rather being frank and blunt about it, the locals that can afford to be going places in the country are, obviously, the moneyed ones and most likely the educated ones who are more comfortable with English slogan.

Again my question is: What is wrong with WOW Philippines?

This has been a tried and tested slogan and has served as well all of the eight or nine years that it has been coined.

Why spend money on stupid slogan “adventurism” just to satisfy ones ego?

Why fix something that is still working?

The best DOT could do is change the artwork or graphics, say, every two or three years, but maintain the ‘battle cry.’

If DOT wants to retire the captivating WOW Philippines slogan, for one reason or another, then replace it with something in English that connotes the same meaning – that of a country that wows visitors because of its price, beauty, culture, wonders,etc., and, not least, the genuine hospitality of its people.

Manny Pacquiao as tourism promoter

It was announced by Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim during the opening of the 18th Travel Tour Expo 2011 that the government would launch the “Pilipinas, Tara Na” campaign this summer to replace the “Tara, Biyahe Tayo” program.

Among other things, DOT seemed to have set their sights on Manny Pacquiao as their chief tourism promoter.

I admire world champion Manny Pacquiao for his boxing prowess.

I hold him in high regard for the honor he has, singlehandedly, given this country.

I applaud his generosity, his humbleness, and his religiosity.

I extol his determination to do the best he can, whether as a public servant in the political arena or as a fighter winning weight divisions inside the ring.

But, that is where the line should be drawn.

Not because Pacquiao has been breaking records in the boxing books shall we be, intoxicatingly, carried away and consider him as the best person to boost Philippine tourism.

I have no problem with Pacquiao promoting title fights or world championship events in the realm of sports in the country. It seems like he is tailored made for this particular advocacy.

I do have, however, reservations of having Pacquiao as the main endorser or advertiser of what the Philippines have as tourist attraction or why it should be a tourist destination.

We should need somebody alluring and attractive, eloquent and articulate, to make a sales pitch for what is equally wholesome, beautiful and worthwhile seeing in our country.

Needless to say that what is required should be a feminine approach or a feminine presentation or a feminine touch to our tourism advertisement especially when enticing those from abroad.

I would even venture to say that tourism advertisement belongs to a feminine genre.

Sadly, Manny Pacquiao is far from it.

He is beyond it.