The Philippine government will not ‘hide’ street dwellers during the upcoming Miss Universe 2016 beauty pageant later this month, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said on Tuesday, January 2.
“In fact, we would like to show them this is the Philippines,” Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo told CNN Philippines in an interview.
Teo noted that most candidates in the Miss Universe pageant are also not from rich countries.
“Sila naman din they have also the squatters (They also have squatters), they also have the homeless in their country. Hindi naman sila mayayaman din (They were also not rich), so we would let them see that the reality that we are not a rich country,” she said.
The DOT also noted that the Philippine government would not shell out any money for the event.
“We are not spending any money. That was my promise to the president,” Teo added.
In 2015, the previous Aquino administration was heavily criticized for allegedly hiding poor families from Manila by sending them to a resort in Nasugbu, Batangas during Pope Francis’s visit to the country.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), however, clarified that it was a “family camping workshop” for the poor.
The DSWD said these families were under its Modified Conditional Cash Transfer (MCCT) program which provides monthly cash grants for health and education assistance to “families with special needs.”
Homeless families were also reportedly rounded up in Manila during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit hosted by the Philippines in November 2015.
Last week, Malacañang said President Rodrigo Duterte wants the street dwellers to be left alone.
“What I heard but this is anecdotal, not policy, is the fact that the President apparently has said ‘go leave them there so that the people see exactly where we are,’” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a press briefing on December 27, 2016.
“As far as I know anecdotally that he has said we’re not hiding our true situation,” Abella added.
The beauty pageant’s coronation night will be held on January 30 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, with Steve Harvey as its host.
Maxine Medina will represent the Philippines in the pageant and attempt to succeed the crown from reigning Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach, who received the Miss Universe honor in December 2015.
Wurtzbach is the third Filipina to win the title, following Margie Moran in 1973 and Gloria Diaz in 1969.