CEBU

Lapu resort's bigwig quits after cranky autism remarks

DAYS after drawing flak for his autism remarks, Manny Gonzalez on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, resigned as resident shareholder of Plantation Bay Resort and Spa in Lapu-Lapu City.

“To protect our staff from further indignities and with sincere apologies for my error of judgment which led to so much trouble to many innocent people, I have decided to resign from the position of resident shareholder,” said Gonzalez in a statement released Tuesday.

Moreover, the management of Plantation Bay Resort and Spa said “it is assessing current protocols in place and has pledged to initiate more proactive efforts and implement necessary changes within the week.”

Shocked

Mayor Junard Chan told Superbalita Cebu that he was shocked by Gonzalez’s resignation, adding that he personally knew Gonzalez just before the controversy.

Despite his public remarks, Chan said, Gonzalez only meant well and that he was only implementing the policies for the benefit of the resort’s guests who were there to relax.

Before Gonzalez’s resignation, Chan had invited the businessman and other Plantation Bay officials and the mother who issued the complaint against them so they could settle the matter amicably. But no meeting occurred.

Social media fallout

Gonzalez received flak from netizens over his handling of customer complaints and controversial remarks on autism.

Guest and mother Mai Pages posted a review and a one-star rating on the resort’s page in TripAdvisor, decrying of discriminatory actions from the lifeguards.

Pages’s child, who has special needs, was squealing while playing in the lagoon.

Gonzalez gave a scathing reply of the resort’s strict policies regarding noise-making and said Pages was “trying to blame the resort for her own failure to look after her child’s interests.”

He also wrote in the initial review response to Tripadvisor readers to google “autism,” saying that autistic children tend to be silent and non-verbal. It was later updated, omitting this part.

Gonzalez apologized on Dec. 8, saying he was wrong to question Page’s motives. He expressed regret that he gave the impression that the resort is not supportive of the community of parents with children who have special needs.

DOT inquiry

The Department of Tourism has launched an investigation on the incident.

In a statement on Dec. 9, the DOT said after due notice and hearing, appropriate administrative sanctions will be slapped on the resort.

The tourism agency will also coordinate with the Department of Justice for its action in relation to the Disability Law.

Webinar

In the wake of the resort incident, the Lapu-Lapu City Tourism, Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission on Monday, Dec. 14, hosted a webinar highlighting accessible tourism, an endeavor ensuring tourism destinations, products and services will be accessible to all people regardless of their physical limitations.

Commission chairman Cindy Chan, in a statement, said the objective of the webinar dubbed “Accessible Tourism for All- Promoting inclusion and Removing Existing Barriers” was to retool the industry with the basic concepts of “fairness, equality, vis-à-vis accessibility and inclusion.”

Tourism advocate and webinar speaker Joselito Costas said tourism has to be accessible for all because it is a basic human right. It is also a sound investment for the government and the private sector.

Costas said it is beneficial for the government because it contributes to the improvement of local residents’ standard of living while it brings in more customers for the private sector.

For greater results, it increases market share in the business and enhances corporate image, he said.

To achieve accessible tourism, Costas said there should be a legal framework that would serve as the program’s foundation; comprehensive implementation of accessibility; raising awareness among stakeholders; supply and demand; and promotion. (FVQ / JKV)


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