Tourism chief denies bringing 'makeup artist' on trips

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Tourism secretary Wanda Teo says tourism industry still looks bright.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 16) — Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo on Friday denied reports she brought a "makeup artist" with her on her trips.

Speaking at a press conference, Teo hit what she described as malicious report about her travels, and clarified Angelito Ucol, the supposed makeup artist who went on foreign and domestic trips with her, works for the Department of Tourism (DOT).

"Angelito Ucol is an...executive assistant ng office of the secretary. I am entitled to an EA," she said.

While other secretaries bring their families to trips abroad, Teo said she brings employees.

"I get somebody who applied to me so 'yun po ang ginawa ko. Hindi po siya makeup artist. [That's what I did. He's not a makeup artist] .. He works in the office, he files, he types, nagtratrabaho po siya [he works during the trips] ," said Teo.

A recent report by the Philippine Star stated she brought Ucol and other utility workers on trips last 2016 and 2017. It cited documents showing DOT employees accompanied her to Dubai, Italy, UK, Russia, Japan, US, and Canada for travel fairs and inventories of foreign offices.

Teo, however, denied the claims.

"I did not go to these places. I have been to these places when I was in the private sector. When I became the Secretary of Tourism, hindi po ako pumunta sa Dubai, di po ako pumunta sa Sydney [I did not go to Dubai, I did not go to Sydney], and I went to Russia with the President," she said

She also clarified she had brought DOT employees on a cruise because she was given 10 free cabins by operator Star Cruises, which had partnered with DOT for a maiden flight.

"I did not give it to my undersecretaries and (assistant secretaries) because nakaka-travel naman po sila [They can travel]; so instead I gave it to little people," she said. "Wala pong gastos ang gobyerno nun because it was for free. Binigay ko po sila dito sa mga taong mababa because they have been with DOT for 30 years but they never have traveled."

[Translation:The government did not spend anything there because it was for free. I gave it to these people because they have been with DOT for 30 years but they never have traveled.]

Teo said she has had no communication with President Rodrigo Duterte since the report came out two days ago, however, she recalled a Cabinet meeting with the President.

"The President made a pronouncement during the Cabinet meeting, 'Kayong mga secretaries puwede kayo magtravel, but yung Usec., Asec. ninyo wag naman [You secretaries can travel, but not your undersecretaries and assistant secretaries],'" she said.

Duterte in January signed an executive order that would let him control the travels of officials under the executive branch. He said those wanting to go on trips should submit an itinerary and memo detailing the objectives of the junkets.

He also warned he would fire officials who have gone on more than a dozen trips.

On Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte will ask Teo about the report as, "it's in his nature always to ask."

He defended Teo, saying traveling was in line with her functions as Tourism Secretary, but added "no one is exempt" from guidelines by the Commission on Audit (COA).

"Pero kung sino iyong mga kasama niya, mayroon din pong guidelines diyan at iyan po ay binubusisi din ng COA. So kung mayroon pong violation ng pertinent rules and regulations, ilalabas at ilalabas po iyan ng COA," said Roque.

[Translation: But there are guidelines for her companions, and the COA also studies that. If there are violations of pertinent rules and regulations, they'll report it.]

Teo added going on trips is part of the Tourism Department's mandate.

"Alam po ninyo, kung tutuusin lang [To be honest], I do not want to travel anymore because I have been to these places many many times," she said. "But because it is in our mandate, I have to go out...I have to see why our tourism arrivals is not at par with other tourism countries," she said.

Following the President's order, she has had to pick which places she would visit.

"Pinipili ko na lang 'yung mga lugar na pinupuntahan ko [I pick where I go to], but course we have to get the approval of Malacañang, which they always give us," Teo said.