Reader, DOT Secretary Christina Frasco has distanced herself completely — read her DOT Statement of July 3 – from the infamous Audio Visual Presentation (AVP) “prepared, produced, and published by DDB Philippines as a component of the launch of the enhanced tourism branding campaign of the country”. She is “one with the Filipino people in expressing her “outrage and extreme disappointment” over what happened. Besides, DDB has “publicly apologized and taken full responsibility”, so she goes scot-free.
I don’t think that Sec. Frasco, in her effort to portray herself as without blame in the whole affair, realizes that she has jumped from the frying pan into the fire.
Only consider: As DOT Secretary, she is responsible for marketing the Philippines both abroad and locally, right? And the AVP presented first on June 27 in a big shindig at the Manila Hotel with PBBM in attendance, with the “Love the Philippines” message, was supposed to be the main hook to catch tourists from all over the world and domestically, right? So then, how come our main tourist marketer left the creation of such a hook so completely in the hands of DDB, without once looking at it before it was publicly presented? If she did that, does she have any business being Tourism Secretary, Reader? Shouldn’t she be fired for gross incompetence, at the very least, for allowing this firm to run circles around her and her entire department (which is what she herself seems to imply)?
She should have been watching like a hawk over the process, every step of the way, if she were a Tourism Secretary worth her salt. She obviously wasn’t, as she herself has admitted, because her “outrage and extreme disappointment” came only after the hook was presented to the public. She looked quite happy in Manila Hotel with PBBM. Should gross negligence be added to gross incompetence?
Because this fiasco has surely hurt the Philippines and the Filipino people. You bet it does. It has made international news – CNN carried it complete with the footage from other countries, and it made our country and we, its people, look like fools. Think of the reactions: Why wasn’t the flaw caught in time? What was the Department of Tourism doing ? Don’t they even know what is part of their country and what is not? The Indonesian Tourism head even thanked the Philippines for featuring Bali in its one-minute-46-secondsAVP. Why go to the Philippines when they don’t even show their own tourist attractions, but show those of other countries instead?
It certainly has set back our own tourism program. At what cost? Can a figure be attached to this setback? Allow me to try:
The share of tourism in our Gross Domestic Product was 6.2% in 2022. This is less than half of what it was in pre-pandemic 2019, when its share was 12.7% of GDP. One per cent of GDP (of 2019 or 2022, since they are about the same) is 190 billion. Multiplied by 6.5 (the difference between 12.7 and 6.2), that comes out to P1.2 trillion pesos, which represents the additional amount that tourism can contribute a year to our GDP if only it were back to pre-pandemic levels.
Every month of setback, using this methodology (you are welcome to use your own) represents the loss of P100 billion pesos (P1.2 Tr divided by 12m months). And this assumes that “Love the Philippines” will indeed attract the tourists. That seems to be a very heroic assumption, given the other controversies that surround this new “brand”. What was wrong with “ Wow! Philippines!” and “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”? But that is another story.
To continue: Secretary Frasco, just in case her distancing plan to get her out of trouble doesn’t work, has a fall-back: her fellow Cebuanos, or at least the ones in politics, have signed a manifestation of support for her, claiming that there is a concerted demolition job, a smear campaign against her, with the objective of sabotaging “the great accomplishments of the DOT Secretary, who continues to deliver to the administration of President Bongbong Marcos Jr.”
What are these great accomplishments? They cited two: According to a survey (they didn’t say which, but I determined it was a RP Mission and Development survey) Frasco had the second highest approval ratings among the cabinet secretaries; and she was elected vice president of the United Nations World Tourism Organization and Chair of the UNWTO Commission for East Asia and the Pacific last month.
Actually, Reader, I have not seen a single news report that even hints at the possibility of the accountability of Frasco in the fiasco. So much so that I was forcibly reminded of the SWS survey that found that 47% of adult Filipinos agree that “it is dangerous to print or broadcast anything critical of the administration, even if it is the truth,” while only 26 percent disagreed with the statement and 27 percent were undecided, based on the poll conducted from Dec. 10 to Dec. 14, 2022. So I don’t know where the demolition or the smear campaign that her Cebu supporters are talking about is coming from.
Certainly not from me, because as I said at the beginning of this blog, she has done it to herself all by herself. She is the one who made herself look, well, less than competent in her job.
BTW, if and when Sen. Nancy Binay decides to investigate, she might like to get to the bottom of the gossip that is rife that Paul Soriano, the President’s P1-a-year adviser on creative communications, owns the production company that produced the infamous AVP.