DOT defends Miss U ancillary event involving whale sharks

MANILA — The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Thursday stood up to criticisms it earned for allowing Miss Universe candidates to swim with butanding (whale shark) off the coast in Oslob, Cebu as one of the ancillary events of the pageant.

DOT Undersecretary for Media Affairs Kat de Castro, in a press conference, stressed that strict guidelines and rules were adhered to when at least five Miss Universe candidates set out to see the whale sharks earlier this week.

De Castro, who is a marine life advocate and a certified scuba diver herself, said the Miss Universe delegates did not use sunblock lotion and kept at least four meters away from the gentle giants underwater.

“The marine wildlife interaction was pursued after having been assured by both Cebu and Oslob government officials that it would be well managed according to their guidelines,” De Castro said.

She further said that the candidates also underwent the usual orientation given local and foreign whale shark interaction participants.

The undersecretary meanwhile assured that she would soon meet with fellow environmentalists to discuss their concern about the whale shark, which has been dubbed as another national icon.

“We still plan to feature the Butanding elsewhere in the country but let me assure you that it will be done in the proper way,” she added.

Fashion feud

DOT also faced controversy when a Davao City designers’ group took to social media their frustration that renowned couturier Rene Salud would be conceptualizing the candidates’ indigenous clothing instead of them for a fashion show.

The Davao Fashion and Design Council Foundation Inc. (DFDCFI) said that they felt insulted that a non-Mindanaoan would be dressing the candidates in a scheduled fashion show in the city on Jan. 19.

DOT later decided to cancel the fashion show to avoid controversy.

In a statement, De Castro stressed that the agency solely aims to promote the country’s tourist destinations, as well as the rich Filipino culture, and not the private interest of any individual or group.

“To avoid controversy and spare our visitors from unnecessary intrigue that doesn’t serve the interest of the greater good, we’ve decided to cancel the fashion show in Davao City,” De Castro said.

“We, at DOT, are concerned in promoting our dollar-earning tourism industry and not anyone’s personal interest,” she added.

Last Dec 10, 11 Miss Universe bets were officially introduced to Filipino fans in a kick-off event ahead of the pageant coronation night on January 30, 2017. They were Miss Australia Caris Emily Tiivel, Miss Thailand Chalita Suansane, Miss Japan Sari Nakazawa, Miss Malaysia Kiranmeet Kaur Balijeet Singh, Miss New Zealand Tania Pauline Dawson, Miss USA Deshauna Barber, Miss Korea Jenny Kim, Miss Myanmar Htet Htet Tun, Miss Indonesia Kezia Roslin Cikita Warouw, Miss Vietnam Dang Thi Le Hang, and Miss Philippines Maxine Medina.