MALACAÑANG moved to replace former aerobics instructor Cynthia Lagdameo Carrion as general manager and CEO of the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA), following her reported actions that allegedly embarrassed the agency’s parent unit, the Department of Tourism (DOT), at the 2024 budget hearings at the Senate last November.
According to a document signed by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on February 7 and sent through the Office of Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco, Roberto “Bob” Z. Zozobrado has been appointed “Acting General Manager/Chief Executive Officer, Board of Trustees of the Philippine Retirement Authority, vice Cynthia L. Carrion.” A copy of the appointment paper was furnished to the BusinessMirror by industry sources and TCP members.
Zozobrado, currently president of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP), is expected to give up his posts in the private sector once he assumes leadership of the PRA, a government-owned and -controlled corporation (GOCC), mandated to promote the Philippines as a retirement haven. He declined to comment on his appointment, pending the taking of his oath of office, which has yet to be scheduled.
Formal election by Board
As per the GOCC Governance Act of 2011, Zozobrado has to be formally elected by the PRA’s Board of Trustees as the firm’s GM and CEO. “Usually the board elects [the head], but it’s usually given that they give it to whoever Malacañang wants,” said a former tourism official, speaking on condition of anonymity. He will then assume the rest of Carrion’s term. The GM and CEO functions as vice chair of the PRA, which is chaired by the Tourism Secretary.
Earlier, Frasco submitted a report to Malacañang documenting Carrion’s alleged rude behavior during the Senate’s marathon plenary hearings on the proposed national budget for 2024. The DOT chief said she also sent screen captures of Carrion’s “inappropriate” text messages to senators, such as complaints on Deputy Minority Leader Senator Risa Hontiveros’s interpellations of budget sponsors of other government agencies, which Carrion had alleged as the reason the hearing on DOT’s own budget was delayed. (See, “Board to determine PRA chief Carrion’s fate – Frasco,” in the BusinessMirror, December 21, 2023.)
Meanwhile, under TCP’s by-laws, the executive vice president, a post currently held by Alan James H. Montenegro (Chroma Hospitality), is supposed to take over the remaining term of the President. A separate source said the group’s Board of Trustees would be meeting soon to discuss the expected vacancy of their top post, following Zozobrado’s appointment to the PRA.
DOT-accredited enterprises as TCP members
Zozobrado first made a name for himself as representative and head of the Philippine offices of several international airlines beginning with Pan American World Airways, Thai Airways International, and Northwest Airlines. He was also Director of Sales at the old Hyatt Regency Manila, a public relations specialist and marketing consultant, and prior to his election as TCP president, was chair of the Philippines chapter of the Pacific Asia Travel Association. He is currently executive director of Lyceum of the Philippines and travel columnist for the Manila Standard.
As president of TCP, an independent stakeholders group established by law to give the private sector a voice in crafting government tourism policy, Zozobrado was instrumental in establishing the group’s permanent office at the DOT building in Makati. The stakeholders group also signed a memorandum of understanding with the DOT, “which makes all newly accredited travel and tourism establishments automatically members of the TCP. This applies to those getting DOT [accreditation] this year,” said Zozobrado in the group’s latest newsletter.
“This new development… will finally give TCP the membership numbers that it needs to be the true voice of the Tourism private sector,” he stressed.