Tourism’s Lim surprised by ouster reports

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Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim on Saturday expressed surprised at reports he’s on the way out.

“Hindi ko alam. Huli ako sa balita (I don’t know. I’m not updated on the news),” Lim said in a phone interview aired over Radyo Inquirer early Saturday morning.

Lim is currently in San Francisco, USA, where he has been conducting a roadshow to entice 2nd- and 3rd-generation Filipino-Americans to visit the Philippines. He will be leaving for Manila today (Sunday).

“Nagtataka ako kung bakit ako ang tinutukoy. Wala naman akong nasabing bad news sa kanya (I don’t know why I’m being referred to. I have not been bringing him bad news),” Lim said to reports that he was among the three Cabinet secretaries who had been giving President Aquino “bad news.”

“I need to talk to the President,” Lim added.

Lim said he’s been on a 12-day tour of six US cities to drum up President Aquino’s program to invite Filipinos to visit their homeland’s tourist destinations.

President Aquino has declared 2011-2016 Pinoy Homecoming Years.

Lim said he met with Fil-Am communities in New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Lim also dismissed calls from a private tourism group for President Aquino to appoint another tourism secretary.

Opposed from the beginning

In a statement, he said the Tourism Congress, which called on Friday for his replacement, had been opposed to his designation as tourism secretary from the beginning.

“From the very start, the Tourism Congress was opposed to my nomination and appointment as secretary of tourism,” Lim said.

“This is because I have always advocated wider private sector participation by all accredited tourism enterprises in the membership of the Tourism Congress as mandated by law,” he said.

Lim said the Department of Tourism (DOT) was in the process of revising the implementing rules and regulations of the Tourism Act of 2009 “as instructed by the House committee on tourism” to review the membership of the Tourism Congress.

Grassroots consultations

“Nationwide consultations were conducted at the grassroots level by all our regional offices. Our regional directors presented the proposed revisions before accredited enterprises, many of whom were excluded from membership in the present Tourism Congress,” he added.

In Malacañang, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said that Lim’s fate was all up to the President but reiterated that the Chief Executive had yet to discuss changes in the Cabinet with the officials concerned.

Valte declined to comment on Lim’s supposed failures during his one-year tenure as pointed out by the Tourism Congress.

“I would not comment anymore on what Secretary Lim should have done or should not have done,” Valte said over state-run radio dzRB radio.

The Tourism Congress, created by the Tourism Act of 2009, is officially mandated to be a consultative body of the DOT. It is made up of private sector stakeholders in the tourism industry.

In Cebu City, the president of the Cebu Business Club yesterday stressed the need for the tourism department to craft more strategic measures to push Philippine tourism.

Give him more time

Gordon Allan “Dondi” Joseph, CBC president, said Lim should be given more time to promote the Philippines and steer the department back to its marketing momentum prior to the May 2010 elections.

“I think everyone would like to see more impact and definitive marketing programs from the Department of Tourism,” said Joseph.

Joseph said Philippine tourism has fundamental problems that need to be solved under the leadership of Lim.

These problems include airport congestion and high taxes and fees which limit the entry of major airlines. Failure to address these problems would mean continuing challenges in growing tourist numbers, said Joseph. Radyo Inquirer; Philip C. Tubeza, Norman Bordadora; and Cris Evert Lato, Inquirer Visayas

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