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Life’s a beach

By Jullie Y. Daza

LIFE is beautiful on our beautiful beaches – in Cebu, one every 10 minutes by car – plus we also have such wonderful cuisine (anyway, we’re known for our “obsessive” fondness for food!).

In a nutshell, that’s the digestible gist of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Fatima Romulo Puyat’s focus on a job whose most immediate challenge is “to meet everybody” waiting in line with an idea, a proposal, maybe even a slogan to replace “It’s more fun in the Philippines.”

Among those she recently met was a group of five advertising creatives who have offered their help “free of charge,” and yes, the secretary’s decision is to keep that “fun” slogan. As Ms. Puyat notes, “there’s no more funds in the Philippines” for another costly campaign.

After the Commission on Audit raised a row of red flags on the past DoT’s expenditures, from the ex-secretary’s trips and her siblings’ airing of DoT commercials on the government channel to Cesar Montano’s myriad excesses, Ms. Puyat must have been so paranoid of a repeat of 50 shades of corruption that she has left it to CoA to clean up the Augean stables before any new contracts are entertained. All contracts “except the institutional ones” remain suspended, she told “Bulong Pulungan” at Sofitel hotel. Proud of her dozen years in government, the secretary is saying she won’t be taken for a ride.

Stakeholders in the room did not voice fears of CoA auditors taking their sweet time to crunch numbers. Invited by Bobby Joseph, the industry’s Gray Eminence, the guests included PAL’s Jimmy Bautista, former secretary Mina Gabor, hotel GM’s, travel operators. These people are legendary for their reputation as unflappable workers who will not let climates and seasons, currencies and current affairs of politics and governance cause any turbulence in their field of expertise.

Ms. Puyat, who greeted almost everyone of them by name even before lunch could be served, will have much to learn from their experience in the private sector, now that she’s on the other side of the welcome fence, especially when it comes to struggling with certain DoT policies.

To local government officials, her message was loud and clear, reprising for them her favorite paragraph from the President’s SoNA: “It’s your job to protect the environment in our tourist destinations.”