ISLAND Garden City of Samal (Igacos) Mayor Al David Uy encouraged tourism establishments to establish additional amenities, including a separate restroom for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) community.
The mayor’s comment is in relation to the recent announcement of Isla Reta Beach Resort that it will not accommodate transgender guests because they do not have the facility for them.
This developed after Shannon Gonzaga, who identifies herself as a transgender woman, complained that she was discriminated against while staying at Isla Reta Beach resort on Saturday, May 8.
Isla Reta owner Mario Reta belied Gonzaga’s claim that she was disrespected by the resort. Reta said he is planning to take legal action against Gonzaga.
Uy said he respects the resort’s policy but he is appealing to them to build restrooms for transgenders.
“Well, it is their company policy, pero ginahangyo nako siguro kung wala gyud silay (I am appealing to them that, maybe, they can designate) facility for transgender community. I will encourage them to put facilities. But sa pagkakaron, kung wala pa, then dapat paspasan nila nga magbutang sila para ma-cater tanan (If they do not have one, then they should fast-track it as soon as possible to cater everyone),” Uy said in an interview on 87.5 FM Davao City Disaster Radio.
“Kasi sa panahon karon, dili man gud maayo nga naa kay i-discriminate. Mao bitaw ni issue sa una, mao bitaw naay kagubot sa una because naay (Nowadays, it is not good to discriminate anyone. That has been a longtime issue which resulted in conflict because there is) discrimination, and we don't want that to happen especially na naa na ta sa 21st century, wala na ta sa sinaunang panahon (We are in the 21st Century and not in the past anymore). We need to adapt,” the mayor added.
Uy said the city has recently opened its new City Hall and they are planning to create a separate restroom for the LGBTQ.
Uy said the issue would have been resolved if both parties were not carried away by their emotions during the incident.
The mayor said the incident was "unfortunate" and he is hoping that no similar incident will happen in the future.
"Paspas ang mga panghitabo (Things happened so fast) because of social media, so naa nay mga nabitawan nga dili maayo na unta dili nalang unta... Wala na ta'y mahimo. (hurtful words were said. There’s nothing we can do). It already created a firestorm," Uy said.
The mayor said the local government, through the City Investment and Tourism Office, reached out to both parties involved.
He said he initially wanted to meet Reta and Gonzaga in the City Hall to personally talk to them, but he said, "Medyo taas pa ang emotion, syempre daghan ang nasakitan. Gihulat sa nako... let the 'fog of war' settle, and istroyahan nako sila. Madungog nako ang (Emotions are still high at this moment considering that many were hurt. Let us wait that this ‘fog of war’ would settle and that is when we can talk to) both sides, and for a possible reconciliation."
Based on the reports he received, Uy said he also saw some lapses on the part of the resort.
Uy said the local government will intensify its program on raising awareness on gender sensitivity, as part of the City Government's program.
"Gipatawag pud nako ang ubang departamento sa city (I already ordered other department offices). I think we need to educate our stakeholders regarding gender sensitivity kay naa mani program nato ang (because we have a program) gender and development every year," he said.
He said this is not limited to tourism establishments, but also in restaurants, mass transportations, and stores.
“I-orient nato ang mga tag-iya [ug] empleyado about (Let us orient both owners and employees about) gender-sensitive issues,” Uy said.
As of Thursday, May 13, the City Government, through the City Council, has yet to enact an anti-discrimination ordinance.
He added that the national government is working on the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (Sogie) Bill.
“With this incident, unta mapaspasan nila ang (we hope for the immediate passage of the) Sogie Bill, and on our part naman sa mga legislators diri (on the part of our legislators), they will look into it para ma-localize nato ang mga (so we can localize) portions sa provision sa bill (of the bill’s provision),” Uy said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said in a statement that it will conduct an investigation on an alleged incident involving sexual harassment and gender discrimination by the employees and management of a resort in Samal Island.
“The DOT is an advocate of gender equality and mainstreaming, and does not tolerate any form of gender-based harassment nor discrimination in its systems, structures, policies, programs, and processes,” DOT said in a statement.
The agency also encouraged the entire tourism industry to abide by national laws on gender and development.