Resort slapped with P10K fine, warning for discrimination
CEBU CITY – The Department of Tourism in Central Visayas (DOT-7) has issued a warning and slapped a P10,000 fine on a posh resort on Mactan Island for its “poor handling” of a guest and a child with special needs last month.
DOT-7 Director Shalimar Tamano informed the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa in Lapu-Lapu City of its decision in a letter dated Dec. 30, 2020.
“This letter serves as your first warning as a clear violation of the Department’s Memorandum Circular against acts or omissions deemed detrimental to the tourism industry and that repeated offenses which are similar in nature shall warrant penalties with increasing gravity in the future,” Tamano said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer on Friday.
Dorothy Palafox of Issues Management Group Inc., Plantation Bay’s new public relations consultant, said in a statement that resort officials have been coordinating with the DOT on how to improve their services.
In an earlier statement, Plantation Bay announced it had implemented modifications on its booking and reservations procedures, including an advance notice to guests with special needs and their requirements.The resort said it was also remodeling certain areas, including a freshwater pool that would be exempted from its “low noise level policy” during scheduled times.
Cherry Allego, Plantation Bay’s general manager, said they also planned to hold “learning sessions” for managers and staff on how to handle guests with disabilities.
Plantation Bay was investigated last December by the DOT, Department of Justice (DOJ) and Commission on Human Rights (CHR) after Manny Gonzalez, a resident shareholder, drew the ire of the public over a harsh reply to an online review made on Dec. 6, 2020, by the mother of a child with autism.
The DOJ and CHR have yet to release their findings.
In a Tripadvisor review of Plantation Bay, Mai Pages, said she and her six-year-old son were “discriminated and excluded” at the resort after at least two lifeguards called her attention to stop her child from squealing while the boy was frolicking in one of the resort’s swimming pools.
She said her son, Fin, would make squealing sounds whenever they went in the waters as he would often do whenever he was excited or happy.
Pages said the incident dampened what could have been a much needed break for her and her son and forced them to stay inside their room instead.
In a now-deleted comment on Tripadvisor, Gonzalez accused Pages of “most likely deliberately lying” or had been given an incorrect diagnosis of autism.
He insisted that uncontrolled shouting was not a symptom of autism and told Pages to Google the disorder and “verify this for yourself.”
Gonzalez’ comment, which was shared by Pages on social media, went viral and drew flak from the public, specially from parents who have children with autism.
The Autism Society Philippines later weighed in on the issue and condemned the acts of the Plantation Bay management, saying there was a need for disability sensitivity training and a review of the resort’s policies and procedures in compliance with Republic Act 7277 or the Magna Carta for Persons with Disability.
A week later, on Dec. 15, the resort announced that Gonzalez had “vacated” his post “to protect our staff from further indignities.”