Philippines President Rodrigo R. Duterte has named Agriculture Undersecretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat as new Tourism Secretary replacing Wanda Teo.
This was confirmed by Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go in a message to reporters on Tuesday night. The Special assistant did not give further details about Puyat’s appointment.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Tuesday afternoon confirmed that Teo had submitted her resignation to the Office of the Executive Secretary before the meeting with the President on Monday night.
He said Duterte accepted Teo’s resignation.
Teo tendered her resignation after the Commission on Audit (COA) questioned the PHP60-million payment by the DOT for ad placements on a television show hosted by her brothers Ben and Erwin Tulfo on PTV 4, a state-run TV network.
Wanda Teo lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, denied Teo’s resignation was an admission of guilt. He said the former State Secretary decided to step down “after a long and deliberate reflection and soul-searching with respect to the events that have transpired the past few weeks.”
Topacio also clarified that Duterte did not demand Teo to resign, and that the decision was purely of her own will.
He reiterated that Teo has done no wrongdoing and “that all the dealings of the DOT went through all legal processes, were above-board and done in good faith and with total absence of malice”.
While still “overwhelmed” by her appointment as the new Tourism chief, Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on Wednesday said she looks forward to continuing the initiatives started by her predecessor.
“We’ve been working with them (DOT) with regard to farm tourism, that’s been their main project with the DA, so might as well continue that,” she said in a television interview.
Romulo-Puyat said President Rodrigo R. Duterte had one instruction when he offered her the job: No corruption.
“I am overwhelmed, but honoured that he actually thought of me and thought (about) giving me the position. I will not disappoint him,” she vowed.
The travel industry welcomed the new State Secretary with enthusiasm. Clang Garcia, a famous food specialist who owns a tour operator and the magazine Food Holidays declared “I welcomed this amazing news! With Bernadette Romulo-Puyat at the helm of the tourism industry, I am confident that she can make it fly so high! You are an answered prayer to all of us! Congratulations, Secretary”, she puts on social media.
With her experience in the agricultural sector, the new State Secretary already promised to give a new impetus to culinary tourism, that she considered an essential element of the country’s tourism strategy.
The Philippines expect to register this year 7.5 million international tourist arrivals with China’s share at 1.5 million.
As of posting, no date for her oath-taking was revealed yet, but once the process is done, Romulo-Puyat said she will meet with DOT officials to discuss the agency’s programs.