By Jullie Y. Daza
YOU’VE got to wonder why she’s so special. Despite the brickbats coming mostly from the catty gender (M, not F), Wanda Tulfo Teo appears to be secure in her seat in the Duterte cabinet, where she is one of only two ladies, the one who has three brothers who just love picking on the President’s men.
Tourism Secretary Teo has been making waves with her statements on the urgent need to close down Boracay for 90 days from June 1 to Sept. 30, which have not endeared her to the business establishments that are “part of the problem.”
Over the weekend, however, with three lady senators voicing the opinion that those which have complied with environmental and other laws need not be shuttered, we should be prepared to see a battle royale shaping up on the soft pinkish sand. Will President Duterte stick to his guns and keep tourists out until paradise has been regained, or will he have a change of heart and favor the senators?
It will be the President’s call, but Secretary Teo recalls how Thailand’s Phuket became an even greater tourist destination after it was shut down for one year to clean up and rejuvenate. The argument that thousands of Boracay workers will be displaced does not hold water, fresh or salty, “because they are mostly from Manila, Cebu, and elsewhere, they’re not all from Aklan.”
When she was sworn in as DoT chief, Ms. Teo was considered a lightweight: “She’s only a travel agent.” “From Davao City.” I have news for her detractors. She’s proud of that background – she was also a flight attendant of Filipinas Orient and Air Niu Guinea – and uses it to gain points as DoT chief. Which explains why when she attends conferences abroad her people tease her to stop acting like a travel agent. “But I prefer to talk to people, find out what they know and don’t know about the Philippines.”
What she has learned during the last two years is nothing new, really. The greatest challenge to her country’s tourism efforts is “those travel advisories” issued by other countries, including those that have been attacked by terrorists. “As my counterparts keep telling me, we have everything – nice people, beautiful places to visit, wonderful cuisine, shopping.” And those advisories.
What sort of weapons should be in WandaWoman’s arsenal?