Rama: A new tourism secretary

·3 min read

That Mayor Christina Frasco of Liloan will take the helm of the Department of Tourism is a done deal.

While her appointing authority still goes by the suffix “elect” until a minute past midnight of June 29, Attorney Frasco has already accepted the assignment “with profound gratitude,” “deep humility” and, importantly, an idea of what to do.

Tourism, a major driver in the local economies of towns and municipalities, took a bad hit from the pandemic. So I am sure we can all get behind anything that ensures the industry’s recovery, especially since prioritizing the industry’s recovery will help propel the Philippines’ post-pandemic economic growth.

The challenges are many and complex because tourism is a value chain framework. It has linked components that must be solidly in place, or else the whole thing falls apart faster than a substandard government project.

Tourism is not just about attracting travelers with cash to burn. It’s inbound and outbound logistics, operations, advertising, services etc., plus making sure that the necessary support architecture is all there — the infrastructure, the people, the technology, and everything in between.

It’s hard, conscientious work that, if it pays off, will be catalytic to the economic recovery of localities like the cities, towns and municipalities that dot Cebu Island and the seven thousand and the odd hundred others like it that make up the archipelago.

Keeping a local focus is important because Philippine tourism is all about the promotion of the cities, towns and municipalities, or a cluster thereof, its people, and the experience. I’m sure the incoming tourism secretary knows a thing or two about keeping it local. If her initial reaction to news of her appointment were any indication, local government units (LGUs) are going to have a lot more involvement in tourism planning under Frasco, which is good because LGUs know the real value of stakeholder engagement and public-private partnerships.

Also, LGUs can relate to issues of sustainability and innovation, as well as promoting and protecting local tourism employment, a serious issue.

Fun fact: Mayor Frasco is the second Cebuano and second Cebuano elected official to lead the tourism department in the agency’s more recent history, if not since its creation in 1973. Incidentally, she and the first person to have that distinction, former congressman Ace Durano, who is also a lawyer, also come from the same congressional district, Cebu’s Fifth District. The Quinto Distrito straddles the city of Danao, the Cebu mainland towns of Liloan, Catmon, Carmen, Sogod and Borbon, and the towns located in the Camotes Islands — Pilar, Poro, San Francisco and Tudela.

Durano was congressman when then President Gloria Arroyo made him her tourism secretary in 2004, and Philippine Tourism Authority general manager in 2008.

His tenure was marked by increased tourist arrivals but also marred by a Sandiganbayan conviction over wall calendars that were supposedly procured without bidding. Durano had to leave his district seat, as Mayor Frasco would also have to, thanks to a provision in the Constitution that “expressly prohibits” the President, Vice President, the members of the Cabinet, and their deputies or assistants from holding any other office or employment during their tenure, save for posts the Constitution itself assigns.

Durano would win that seat back in 2013, but only held it for one term. Last May, he ran for Cebu governor and lost to Mayor Frasco’s mom, incumbent and reelected Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia. The district’s congressional seat, meanwhile, is being held by Mayor Frasco’s husband, the incumbent and reelected Rep. Duke Frasco.

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