MANILA-- The proposed junket of Department of Tourism (DOT) and House of Representative members to Iceland and Norway was never finalized, a tourism official said Wednesday.
DOT Assistant Secretary and spokesperson Frederick Alegre made this statement in response to a Philippine Star report which stated that at least five DOT officials will be joining four congressmen and four employees on a foreign trip scheduled July 14 to 22.
According to the report, the congressmen joining the trip are Reps. Ma. Carmen Zamora (Compostela Valley), Mark Aeron Sambar (Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta party-list), Paolo Everardo Javier (Antique) and Oscar Richard Garin Jr. (Iloilo). They will be joined by House secretariat employees Cecilia de Sahagun, Julieta Apostol, Liza Mijares and Jocelyn Lim.
Tourism officials joining the trip are Office of Tourism Development Planning, Research and Information Management Director IV Milagros Say, senior tourism operations officer Ruth Tizon and training and development division officer Jerlie Ganiga. The name of another DOT official, however, was unavailable.
The Philippine Star later released a report saying that the trip was canceled. However, Alegre pointed out that the junket was never even finalized.
(It) was never finalized. Star is wrong, Alegre said in a text message to the Philippine News Agency.
He further said that his text message to the Philippine Star clearly explained that the trip was not finalized but noted that the Star did not use it.
"It is unfair to the DOT and the House of Representatives to call it a junket. There was malice in the report," he added.
In a press statement, Alegre said the junket was supposed to be a legitimate program which was part of its compliance with the requirements of the government's Gender Awareness and Development (GAD) program.
However, he said that no airline booking has been made for DOT Secretary Wanda Teo or any other official and staff.
"No airline booking has been made for either for Sec. Teo or for any member of her staff. Neither the four House representatives, along with four House secretariat employees, have been booked for the proposed GAD activity," Alegre said.
A report from GMA News Online, meanwhile, showed that some of the congressmen namely Garin and Javier have denied their participation in the proposed trip.
Source: Philippines News Agency