Philippine Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo Under Fire over Travels

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UNDER FIRE. Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, under fire in connection with some of her foreign travels, is shown with actor Cesar Montano, a manager of the Department Tourism agency, in this file photo. Montano himself came under earlier for alleged graft and corruption.

 

DAVAO CITY— Another Cabinet member of President Duterte, this time tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo Teo, is under fire for several travels abroad during her two years in office and allegedly bringing a makeup artist and other aides during her travels, including those reportedly in Dubai, Sydney and Russia.

Critics of Teo, a travel agency owner before appointed to the DOT and who was once a flight stewardess, also claimed that two years in office, she allegedly still has no vision, no gameplan, and no clear sense of what tourism is and should be.

Although Teo denied the allegations, the report exposed what could be a possible rift in the Department of Tourism weeks after she undertook a major reshuffle of officials.

This developed as the DOT, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and officials of the local governments were assailed for many years of neglect in the protecting Boracay island from garbage, lack of sewage system and over commercialization.

President Duterte himself put to task the DOT, DENR and local officials and ordered them to remedy the woes of Boracay within six months, warning that failure to do so would force him to close the island resort.

The DOT, DENR and local officials  and the hotel and tourism establishments in Boracay have banded together to enforce Duterte’s order, which has been expanded to popular areas like Palawan and Siargao in the Dinagat Islands province.

It was reported that based on the documents, makeup artist Angelito Ucol joined Teo in her overseas trips in 2016 and 2017. Teo, however, clarified that Ucol was her special assistant and not a makeup artist.

“They said I brought along a makeup artist, Angelito Ucol. He is an executive assistant (EA) at the office of the [tourism] secretary,” she said.

The Tourism Secretary’s assistant, Marinela Miranda, was also her frequent companion, according to reports published in Manila.

Teo reportedly visited several countries in her two years as head of the Department of Tourism, among them Dubai, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan and Canada.

Some members of Teo’s entourage in her overseas trips had rank and file positions so their presence did not seem to be essential to her official business, according to a published report.

Teo also reportedly gave travel orders to a utility worker and clerk for her trip to Dubai.

Two drivers of Tourism Assistant Secretary Arlene Mancao experienced riding the posh Star Cruises courtesy of Teo.

Several utility workers, clerks and members of composite teams within the DOT were also given travel orders to accompany Teo in her various overseas junkets.

Teo, who is the sister of brothers Erwin, Ramon and Ben Tulfo,  said the report claimed she went to Dubai and Sydney and several other places as tourism secretary.

“I did not go to these places, I’d been to these places when I was in the private sector. As secretary of tourism, I did not go to Dubai; I haven’t gone to Sydney yet. I went to Russia with the President,” Teo said.

In justifying Ucol’s trip with her, Teo said he “works in the office, he files, he types, he works.”

The secretary said she only brought along official members of the Department of Tourism family to her overseas trips.

Teo also defended her decision to bring utility workers to a Star Cruises trip, saying it was free.

The cruise line, Teo said, is a partner of her department and gave her 10 cabins for free, which she decided to give to utility workers instead of officials.

“Instead, I give it to little people. Wala pong gastos ang gobyerno because it was for free. Binigay ko po ito sa mga taong mabababa because they have been with DOT for 30 years and they never have travelled, (The government did not incur any expense because it was for free. I gave it to low-ranking personnel because they have been with DOT for 30 years and they never have travelled),” she said.

“How about these people who are little people? Don’t you think they need to travel because they are part of DOT? Yun po ang ginawa ko but I think the report was very malicious,” she added. (philippinestodayusa@gmail.com)

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