‘Love the Philippines’ ad firm won at least P187M worth of tourism promotion contracts

PCIJ’s research shows that Doyle, Dane & Bernbach (DDB) Philippines also won at least three other contracts with the Department of Health and the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation. They are worth another P235 million.

BY CARMELA FONBUENA / Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

Doyle, Dane & Bernbach (DDB) Philippines won at least two other government deals to promote tourism on top of its discredited P49.92-million “Love the Philippines’’ ad campaign, research by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) showed. 

DDB Philippines got a P124.45-million contract with the Department of Tourism (DOT) in February this year, and sealed the P12.99-million contract with the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) in December last year, based on documents PCIJ obtained from the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (Philgeps).

It’s a total of at least P187 million worth of government contracts to boost tourism promotion under the year-old Marcos administration. The controversial deal with DoT to rebrand the country’s tourism campaign was finalized in April this year. 

DDB Philippines, an affiliate of the DDB Worldwide Communications Group based in New York, has come under the spotlight for producing a promotional video that used stock footage of tourist attractions in other countries for the DoT’s campaign rebrand, “Love the Philippines.’’   

The tourism video – which used footage of rice terraces in Bali, Indonesia; fisherman in Thailand; an airplane in Switzerland; and dolphins in the United Arab Emirates – has made international headlines and sparked outrage. The stock footage was reportedly downloaded from Storyblocks, a stock media subscription company. 

Amid the uproar, Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco terminated the contract with DDB Philippines, saying “not a single peso of government fund has been paid with the agency.” But Frasco indicated she was keeping the new slogan, saying “‘Love the Philippines’ reflects the heart of every Filipino because we all love the Philippines.’’ 

DDB Philippines had apologized for using stock footage of other countries in the video that it said was meant for internal use only. It explained that the presentation uploaded on social media was a “mood video to excite internal stakeholders about the campaign.’’

The video was shown at the June 27 launch of the newest tourism campaign that replaced the “It’s more fun in the Philippines’’ branding that had been in use since 2012.  President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. attended the launch.

The controversy has prompted calls for investigation in Congress.  

 Single rated bidder 

Before getting mired in the campaign ad fiasco, DDB has won more than a dozen multi million-peso contracts from government agencies over the years.  

At least six of these were reached during the first year in office of Mr. Marcos.   

NOTICE TO PROCEED. The first contract with DDB Philippines was signed by DOT Secretary Cristina Frasco in February 2023. 

On Feb. 28, the DOT awarded DDB Philippines a contract to provide consulting services for the “promotion of Philippine islands, award-winning Philippine destinations and tourism products” for P124.45 million. 

The six-month contract, signed by Frasco and DDB Group COO and CFO Judd Balayan, was supposed to end on Aug. 31.  

The ad agency was declared the single rated and responsive bidder, meaning it was the only firm that submitted documents for the bid. It also passed eligibility requirements. This is allowed by the Government Procurement Policy Board. 

Also, on April 19, DDB Philippines won the controversial P49.92-million contract from DOT to handle the “consulting services of an agency for Philippine Tourism Branding.”

The ad agency was declared the highest rated bidder for the six-month contract, which was signed by DOT Undersecretary Verna Esmeraldo Buensuceso and DDB’s Balayan, and was supposed to end on Oct. 19.  

These contracts required DDB Philippines to pay security bonds. The first contract with DOT required the firm to pay performance security, which is 5 percent of the contract price (P6.2 million in cash) or a surety bond worth P37.33 million.

The second contract required a performance security of P2.4 million or a surety bond worth P14.97 million.

Bonds are guarantees that the winning bidders could fund the projects. They are returned after the projects are completed.   

The Philgeps documents obtained by PCIJ do not include the terms and reference of the contracts, which would have included the schedule of payments.

These two DOT contracts followed a smaller contract between DDB Philippines and TPB in December last year.  For P12.99 million, the ad agency would provide “consulting services for the conceptualization and development of MICE brand and campaign.”

TPB is an attached agency of DOT that markets and promotes tourism here and abroad.

MICE stands for Meetings, Incentive Travel, Conventions and Exhibitions, which are specialized sectors of tourism requiring higher standards of services and facilities. 

The contract was awarded to DDB Philippines on Dec. 29, 2022. The notice to proceed was issued on Feb. 7, 2023. 

Outside tourism promotion, the marketing firm also bagged at least three other deals – P108.8 million and P99.73 million to handle the Department of Health’s campaign on seven healthy habits and P26.78 million to mount the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation’s multimedia public awareness campaign.  

A fourth contract with DOH worth P52.5 million was also issued a notice of award on July 10. 

 Another P40-M DOT contract ‘postponed’ 

Among production houses in the country’s capital, many were surprised that a firm as big as the DDB Philippines would make such a gaffe. 

“It’s out of character for DDB to not practice due diligence when it’s their protocol for ages to do so. All production houses, we follow that,” said an industry veteran. The controversy has prompted speculations about the contract.

Former Sen. Richard Gordon, who once served as DOT Secretary, said it was not enough for DDB to apologize.

“An agency as big as DDB cannot overlook a mistake that big. It is their duty to review and have everything checked or the mistake will bite you. More importantly it will rabidly hurt the Philippines,” Gordon told journalist Christian Esguerra on his Youtube program #FactsFirst. 

In the wake of the controversy, the DOT postponed a new bid for an agency to run its social media management and strategic planning. It had an approved budget of P40 million. 

Philgeps documents show that three companies were shortlisted for this service. One of them is DDB Philippines.  END

Explore beauty and heritage in the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand while staying at home

Virtual packages give would-be tourists a taste of better times ahead.

By Mong Palatino

Movement restrictions in place across the world as a result of the COVID-19 have canceled travel plans and left entire industries devoted to tourism in tatters.

In Southeast Asia, where tourism plays an important role in generating jobs and revenues, the pandemic has already weakened the economies of many countries. Tourism numbers are minuscule at a time when they should be booming.

The Philippines’ Department of Tourism reported that foreign arrivals went down by over 54 percent to 1.32 million from January to April this year. The tourism sector accounted for 12.7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2018.

According to the General Statistics Office, Vietnam welcomed 3.7 million international tourists from January to March, which was 18.1 percent lower compared to the same period in 2019.

Thai authorities said that from January to March, foreign tourist arrivals decreased by 38 percent to 6.69 million. Spending by foreign tourists accounted for 11 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2019.

In response, governments in these countries have established virtual tours for those who want to explore famous travel locations in Southeast Asia without leaving their homes, and to encourage tourists to visit these places in the future.

Below are some of the free online travel packages on offer.


The Intramuros Administration (IA), a Philippine government agency, has partnered with Google Arts and Culture to create a platform that allows users to virtually visit the ‘walled city’ of Intramuros in Manila.

Intramuros was the site of the old capital during Spain’s 300-year rule over the Philippines. Visitors can explore famous landmarks like Fort Santiago and Plaza Roma.

The website also showcases the IA’s art collection. The online exhibit ‘Christ in Filipino Consciousness’ features religious images of Child Jesus that reflect how Christianity was deployed to colonize the Philippines.

Meanwhile, the Department of Tourism is also offering virtual backgrounds featuring famous tourism destinations in the Philippines which users can display in video conferences.

Screenshot of the Ha Long Bay 360 degree tour. Source: Website of ‘Stay at Home with Vietnam’

The Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board and the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism have launched the ‘Stay at Home with Vietnam’ kit that allows visitors to explore the country from a distance.

The website offers 360-degree tours of its eight UNESCO World Heritage sites which include Halong Bay and the Phong Nha caves.

Visitors can also download homemade recipes of popular Vietnamese dishes such as banh mi sandwich and bun cha (rice noodle served with grilled pork meatballs).

Several short videos feature local citizens providing tips and unique perspectives on some Vietnamese destinations.

coloring-in pamphlet that features Vietnamese icons is available for download.

Lastly, visitors can download photos of famous tourism sites that can be used as virtual background during video calls.


Thailand has recently eased lockdown restrictions but it will take some time before international tourists are welcomed back again.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) tried to sustain interest through its #BooknowTravelsoon campaign and Amazing Thainess social media promotion.

It has launched 3D virtual tours for 13 attractions in nine provinces.

One of the virtual museums offering a glimpse of the country’s riches is the Arts of the Kingdom Museum, which features art collections created by the craftspeople of the Queen Sirikit Institute.

Jewels of the collection uploaded on social media include the ‘Model of the Mongkol Suban Royal Barge’ and ‘Egg-shaped Urn with Khankorbua Print Golden top etched’

The model of the royal barge, including the hull and the keel, are made of gilded silver. The bow is made of carved gold and colour enamel in the shape of a Garuda clutching a Naga in each claw.

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Kodao publishes Global Voices articles as part of the content-sharing agreement.

PH economy was already slowing – COVID-19 just made it worse

by IBON Media & Communications

The Philippine economy was already weak coming into the COVID-19 crisis, research group IBON said. Growth will remain slow if the government does not acknowledge pre-existing weaknesses that the pandemic merely intensified.

The group said that recognizing the problem is the first step to the bold measures needed for long-term growth and development.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported -0.2% growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter of 2020, marking a significant drop from the 5.7% growth in the same period last year.

The National Economics and Development Authority (NEDA) attributed this to the Taal volcano eruption in January, decrease in trade and tourism due to COVID-19 in February, and the eventual lockdown in March.

IBON said however that the economy was already slowing for three consecutive years and headed for its fourth such year even before COVID-19 came into the picture.

Official figures show annual GDP growth falling from 7.1% in 2016 to 6.9% in 2017, 6.3% in 2018 and 6.0% in 2019.

Year-on-year first quarter growth also reflects this trend, falling from 6.9% in the first quarter of 2016 to 6.4% in 2017.

This slightly increased to 6.5% in 2018 but fell to 5.7% in 2019. In 2020, first quarter growth dove to -0.2%, which is the first GDP contraction since the fourth quarter of 1998 (-3.4%).

Important accustomed drivers of growth were falling even before the eruption of Taal Volcano in January and the COVID-19 crisis since February and especially since the lockdown starting mid-March.

Growth in overseas remittances slowed from 5.3% in 2017 to 3.9% in 2019, and foreign investment flows from US$10.3 billion to US$7.6 billion over the same period.

The manufacturing sector slowed from 8% in 2017 to 3.2% in 2019, and agriculture from 4.2% to 1.2% over the same time.

Tourism had also been lackluster, said the group. Growth in gross value added of tourism industries remained virtually stagnant from 10.1% from in 2016 to 10.3% in 2017 and 10.6% in 2018.

In terms of expenditure, gross capital formation considerably slowed from 10.9% growth in 2017 to 2.5% in 2019 and exports from 17.4% to just 2.4 percent.

Household consumption spending remained steady at 6% in 2017 and 5.9% in 2019.

Hence, overall economic growth has just been artificially driven by government consumption spending, which increased from 6.5% in 2017 to 9.6% in 2019 and by public infrastructure projects rather than an underlying dynamism from vibrant domestic agriculture and industry.

These basic economic weaknesses result in record joblessness and the proliferation of informal and irregular work.

Correcting the official methodology which underreports joblessness, IBON estimated that the number of unemployed reached a record 4.7 million in 2019.

The group also estimated that 27.2 million or 64% of employment in the same year was really poor quality work comprised of non-regular and agency-hired, government contractuals, and informal earners.

Widespread poverty is another indicator of a sluggish economy, said the group.

According to PSA data, some 12.4 million or over half of 22 million families nationwide were trying to survive on less than P132 per person per day.

IBON pointed out that the last three years of slowing growth has been despite the Duterte administration’s expanding Build, Build, Build infrastructure program.

Despite annual appropriations for infrastructure increasing to 4.7% of GDP in 2019, economic growth still fell for a third consecutive year.

The group explained that infrastructure spending is a short-term stimulus at best and that domestic agriculture and Filipino industry have to be strengthened for growth to be higher and more sustained.

The agriculture sector has been weakening due to long-time government neglect. It grew from -0.1% in 2016 to 4.2% in 2017, but steadily declined thereafter to 1.1% in 2018 and 1.2% in 2019.

First quarter growth in agriculture slid to -0.4% in 2020 from 0.5% the previous year. Continued agricultural liberalization, such as of the rice subsector, will only weaken agriculture further.

Growth in manufacturing, which has long been foreign-dominated and export-oriented, has also been dwindling. The sector registered 6.8% growth in 2016, which increased to 8.0% in 2017. But this dropped to 5.1% in 2018 and 3.2% in 2019. First quarter growth in manufacturing went down to -3.6% in 2020 from 5.2% in 2019.

IBON said that the government will be making this same mistake in overly relying on infrastructure spending as its response to the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis.

The group stressed that the government needs to implement bolder measures that prioritize the needs of Filipinos, especially the most vulnerable, and that genuinely develop the national economy.

These include: immediate emergency relief, and especially with unemployment soaring, extended income support to poorest households; expanding the public health system and providing universal social protection; and repurposing the economy for domestic demand-driven employment and growth by strengthening agriculture and building Filipino industry.

The resources needed for these can be raised by imposing a wealth tax, higher personal income taxes for the richest families, and higher corporate income tax for the largest corporations.

IBON said that if the government insists on its old neoliberal policies and does not change course, the economy will be even weaker after the COVID-19 crisis. #

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Kodao publishes IBON articles as part of a content-sharing agreement.


By George Tumaob Calaor


you have planted seeds of terror

that sprouted fear in the island

of my dreams turning the dreams

for my children the nights of nightmares

of their horrified future?

the sands that used to be so pure and white

the sands where I used to build castles of our lives

the sands that bridges me and my love ones across to the brighter sides of life

is now a captive of your greed and tyrant device

turning it into an embering grave of my love ones dreams!

guarded by the dogs of your howling scheme!

so proud and unashamed!

but don’t ye for you cannot hold the anger of our tides

and winds shall whisper our weeping to the oceans and our broken pride

and ask the waves to surge our cause to the fullest of their heights

and swallow you like drifted wicked and fascist souls from the beach of our paradise

as freedom like sun rise of gold, on its victorious revolt, so equal shall rise!