Why the 2019 World Street Food Congress isn’t happening
MANILA, Philippines – The 2019 World Street Food Congress (WSFC) is canceled, and a lot of people aren't very happy about it – especially the founders and team behind the highly-anticipated international culinary event.
This year's WSFC was set to be hosted in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, but the event was abruptly canceled only 3 months after its announcement by founder KF Seetoh of Makansutra. As to why this happened, the two opposing sides – the WSFC against the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the TPB (Tourism Promotions Board) – can't seem to agree.
WSFC: Shifting of the 'blame game'
With both sides bearing different claims, the latest tirade comes from WSFC's Facebook post on Saturday, May 18, saying that the "blame game" has currently shifted to TPB's chief operating officer (COO).
"She personally signed a letter of confirmation that holds no water, has no disclaimer, and disrespectfully, does not inform her staff and us that it's not truthful. She cites that her board of directors (BOD) had not given approval thus she had no power to approve what she 'approved'," the post said.
WSFC mentions the "verbal nod" that her subordinates had allegedly received 6 months prior, which naturally led to her team to continue the work – speaking to several culinary colleges, discussing with renowned local chefs, and crafting new ideas.
But since its cancellation, WSFC calls out the TBP COO, saying that she "owes an apology" to her team who worked diligently for months for the Filipino people, only for the event to be brushed off by the TBP and DOT "without reason and regard."
WSFC ends the post by saying that the past two years with the past administration was a success, also thanking the event's supporters for their loyal patronage, hoping for another chance to showcase Pinoy food culture on the food map, as it remains a "good cause and movement."
DOT: 'It was never approved'
WSFC's Saturday post on Facebook comes after DOT chief Berna Romula-Puyat spoke with The Philippine Star during an interview on Thursday, May 16. Romulo-Puyat said that the event “was never approved by the TPB due to the high cost of staging the event.”
“There was no contract. It was not approved," she said, also mentioning that the total cost for hosting the international event would be at P47.8 million, with a licensing fee of P34 million.
“When it was discussed in the board, they felt it was too expensive for a few days even. It was never approved by the board," she added.
WSFC: 'You should not lead us on'
The day before Romulo-Puyat's response, on Wednesday, May 15, WSFC shared on Facebook a photo of the email sent by the TBP to WSFC, indicating that the note was "misleading", and that they should not "lead us and our partners on."
"Dear Madam Secretary DOT," WSFC started their post with. "A simple 'no' will suffice."
"You can understand why, with this note of clarification from your TPB's COO, no less, we moved on to activate our resources in good faith," WSFC added, calling out the DOT for "hijacking two years of ours and our partner's time."
"I hope this style of professional ethics is not a habit," they said.
WSFC: 'Disturbing and disappointing'
Prior to that post, the organization first spoke up about the matter on a Tuesday, May 14 post.
"This is very disturbing and disappointing," they said, pertaining to the DOT and TPB's sudden cancellation of the event. They also alleged that no reason was given to the team.
"The World Street Food Congress 2019 Philippines, all set and officially approved recently, is again canceled by TPB and DOT, like they did in 2018. No reason nor rhyme was given and this, was after 6 months of legwork the WSFC did in curating and accomodating the TPB and DOT ideals for the event," they said.
They also revealed that chefs, cooks, street food professionals, and vendors from 14 countries had already been invited, including international speakers, Michelin-awarded street food vendors, and members of the press – all of whom had been "looking forward to the event."
WSFC ends its post by saying that this behavior was "unbecoming" of the TPB and DOT, initially reporting that this wasn't personal, due to their good working relationship.
The group also apologized to everyone involved, promising that the food show would go on, despite having to go back to the drawing table.
"We even suggested to the Street Food show team on Netflix that Philippines be featured!" they added. "It created a lot of international noise despite all the protests about origins and recommendations. Food noise is good noise."
The 2019 WSFC would've been the 3rd time the Philippines hosted the congress, with the first time back in 2016 and the second in 2017, where the late Anthony Bourdain made a special appearance.
However, this isn't the first time TPB canceled – the 2018 project was also pulled out by the TPB, citing circumstances beyond its control, as reported by The Philippine Star.