Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has appointed agriculture undersecretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat as new tourism secretary, replacing Wanda Tulfo Teo who has resigned amid a tourism advertising controversy.
The daughter of former senator and foreign affairs secretary Alberto Romulo, Romulo-Puyat is an economist who taught in her alma mater, the University of the Philippines, and has been with the Department of Agriculture for 12 years.
Tulfo Teo, formerly a travel agent based in Davao where Duterte also hailed from, fell from grace with accusations of conflicts of interest and nepotism when the Commission on Audit earlier flagged a 60 million peso (US$1.2 million) deal paid by the Department of Tourism (DoT) for ad placements on the TV show produced and hosted by her brothers Ben and Erwin Tulfo.
Controversies have marred Tulfo Teo’s stint as tourism secretary, including alleged corruption issues and her support for Boracay’s closure without concrete plans for its rehabilitation.
Tourism Congress of the Philippines’ president Jojo Clemente commented: “We hope whoever takes over has learned from what has (happened). We look to genuine and objective leadership.”
Clemente explained that “there were too many distractions which prevented us from continuing with the gains of the previous administration, and we look forward to moving on and getting back to the basics and hopefully continue to improve the Philippines as a prime destination”.
Cesar Cruz, president, Philippine Tour Operators Association, added: “We welcome the appointment Berna Romulo-Puyat as the new Secretary of the Department of Tourism. Her experience as a civil servant and exposure on marketing and promotions provide a sigh of welcome relief to the industry stakeholders whose industry has been subjected to corruption scandals, lack of direction on policies, marketing and promotion and more. This will hopefully bring back the high morale in the industry and move on to more substantial undertakings for the success of the Philippine tourism industry.”