MANILA — Tourism Undersecretary Vicente Romano II, the official behind the much-criticized “Pilipinas kay Ganda” promotion program of the Department of Tourism (DOT), resigned last Tuesday in an effort to put an end to the controversy.

In a hastily called press conference, Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim announced that Romano has taken full responsibility for the “boo-boo” of the new DOT program and tendered his irrevocable resignation.

“Usec Romano has taken full accountability over the slogan and tendered his irrevocable resignation. I relayed the information to the President and he accepted it,” Lim disclosed.

He said he opted to resign after the Pilipinas kay Ganda slogan drew widespread flak from members of the tourism industry and other sectors that claimed that the new DOT brand lacked vision and was apparently copied from a foreign advertising campaign.

Romano also admitted that the DOT spent over P4 million for what was meant to be just a preview of the slogan.

But he insisted that the government did not overspend.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said President Benigno Aquino III has accepted Romano’s resignation.

Romano offered his resignation after he admitted his mistake, Lacierda said.

“It was honorable of him to offer his resignation and the President respects him for his act,” Lacierda noted.

“And it is with reluctance that the President accepted his resignation,” Lacierda said.

“For the past days, the Pilipinas kay Ganda branding drew so much criticisms and I think it is unfair for Secretary Lim and the President to fend off the criticisms when it is really me who is accountable,” said Romano, a leader of the Black and White Movement who also campaigned for Mr. Aquino in the last presidential polls.

“But the people’s rejection, I believe, was also a vote of no confidence to the slogan and the people behind it, thus I am tendering my irrevocable resignation,” Romano added.

Romano, however, maintained that the logo was not plagiarized, although the Poland travel website served as an inspiration for the creation of the country’s new branding.

“I did not consider it as plagiarism then and I believe Campaigns and Grey (advertising agency) did nothing illegal or immoral. If I offended the sensitivities of the people I am truly sorry and hope that the matter would be finally put to rest,” Romano pointed out.

He also admitted that despite the lack of consultation from concerned sectors, he decided to present the still unfinished slogan to the public.

“I decided to add a little fanfare to the presentation of the new slogan to excite the audience and get people’s feedback. We did get the feedback only it was negative,” he said.

Romano further noted that when he presented the logo to the President and Lim, he was advised to undertake more research but he still decided to hold a preview and get the people’s feedback.

He said he decided to set aside the consultation process and rushed into the public presentation of the slogan in the hope of being able to start the campaign in the first quarter of 2011.

“I rushed in coming out with the slogan because I believe any delay would be lost opportunity to increase tourism arrivals and lost opportunity to generate more jobs for Filipinos,” he said.

While expressing suspicion that some people against the government’s open skies policy on airlines orchestrated the controversy against the DOT, Romano said he would rather not blame anybody.

After announcing his resignation, Romano appealed to the public and tourism industry members to put the controversy behind and rally behind the program of the DOT.

Members of the Black and White Movement as well as the Hyatt 10 came to the DOT during the press conference to express support for the resigned official.

Intention to leave

Shortly after the controversy started, Lim said, Romano already expressed his intention to leave his job and emailed to him his resignation letter.

Romano flew to the United States several days after the public presentation of the slogan.

“This only shows that there is accountability in this government,” Lim said.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said Romano’s resignation should serve as an example to others surrounding the President that they should be willing and ready to give up their positions if needed for the cause of public accountability.

“Romano’s resignation is worthy of our praise. It was a laudable decision. He showed he has delicadeza, a rare move that many in the public sector can indeed learn from. His decision shields the President from the controversy,” Pangilinan said.

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