Department of Tourism

‘Pandemic over,’ says tourism chief; Marcos OKs 5-year dev’t plan

Bea Cupin

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‘Pandemic over,’ says tourism chief; Marcos OKs 5-year dev’t plan

TOURISM DEV'T PLAN. Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco and Information and Communications Technology Secretary Ivan John Uy speak to the media on May 16.

Bea Cupin/Rappler

‘It cannot be denied that we do give the world our best,’ says Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco, who promises a new tourism slogan that the public will ‘love’

MANILA, Philippines – Amid the backlash over an advertising campaign that seemed to play up the country’s labor export policy, Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco said on Tuesday, May 16, that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. approved the country’s national tourism development plan (NTDP) for 2023-2028.

The plan, said Frasco, will “serve as the blueprint and development framework for the tourism industry for the duration of the Marcos administration.” The tourism chief, however, did not give an estimate of the five-year plan’s cost, citing adjustments they’ll need to apply following a meeting with Marcos in Malacañang Palace.

“We are very excited to launch in a few short weeks the Philippine Experience which gives our fellow Filipinos an opportunity to experience not just our destinations but also reintroduce them to the heart and soul of the Filipinos through our festivals, our food, and the like,” said Frasco, a former mayor who also served as spokesperson of Vice President Sara Duterte during the 2022 campaign for the national elections.

The Tourism Secretary was also quick to shut down any inkling that the Philippines would tighten its travel rules because of the rising COVID-19 cases.

Tapos na po yung pandemya, sabi po yan ng WHO (The pandemic is over, that’s according to the World Health Organization). While we continue to support the department of health’s measure as well as ensuring the health and safety of our fellow Filipinos, the direction of the Philippines is forward and that is to ensure that we continue to open up the country to travel and tourism as is the direction set by our President,” she said.

The WHO does not actually declare if pandemics are over – or if it started in the first place. But the WHO did announce an end to COVID-19 as a global health emergency in early May 2023. The declaration does not mean that COVID-19 is no longer a global health threat.

Frasco also announced the lifting of practically all masking requirements in the Philippines, citing a need to boost tourism numbers.

‘You’ll love it’

Frasco added the Philippines would launch a new marketing strategy or slogan to go alongside the NTDP. Previous slogans that made a mark both domestically and overseas include 2002’s “WOW Philippines” and “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” launched a decade later.

“The main change first of all is that the focus of the DOT will be to highlight the heart and soul of the Filipino that is evident in our culture, our festivals, our food, the local products of our small and medium enterprises are living cultural heritage. Everything that makes us diverse and unique and a proud Filipino people that gives us pride of place,” said Frasco.

Recently, the “We give our world the best” advertising campaign for the Philippines was rolled out in London. The ads, which were placed on the side of a bus, featured Filipino-British nurse May Parsons with the words: “The nurse who gave the first COVID-19 vaccine. A Filipina. We give the world the best. The Philippines.”

Presidential Adviser on Creative Communications Secretary Paul Soriano defended the slogan. Critics though said that the campaign left a bad taste in the mouth, and seemed to be detached from social realities back home. Soriano said that the thrust of the ads was “NOT solely a tourism campaign.”

“We don’t want to commodify our people, and we don’t want to be tagged as a labor-exporting country,” said Senate Tourism Committee Chairperson Senator Nancy Binay – even as labor export continues to be a major revenue source for the Philippines.

Marcos has made it clear that he intended to continue this decades-long policy, which was first institutionalized under his namesake and father, the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Still, Frasco made a reference to the controversial line when asked about having a new tourism slogan.

“We are putting forth the best of the best of the Philippines to the world because it cannot be denied that we do give the world our best,” she said.

Frasco said the new campaign will be launched in the “next few weeks” after consultations with tourism stakeholders.

The plan, said Frasco, includes not just promotions but product development, “including the development of infrastructure, connectivity, as well as digitalization, the equalization of tourism, development, and promotion, the enhancement of overall tourism experience as well as the strengthening of tourism governance. Free wifi will be launched, initially in 47 sites covering Benguet, Palawan, Aklan, and Cebu.”

“Many tourists now are also vloggers, they vlog about their experience while they are enjoying so it’s critical we provide them with connectivity…. it’s critical that they also be our marketing tool,” said Department of Information and Communications Technology Secretary Ivan John Uy. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.