Lapid wants a safer, tourist-friendly Philippines

Sen. Manuel “Lito” Lapid says there should be a more specific description of the country as a tourist destination than “It’s more fun in the Philippines.”

The country should be safer and tourist-friendly, too.

Thus Lapid filed Senate Bill No. 878, or the “Tourist Protection and Assistance Act,” which seeks to establish a multi-agency task force responsible in instituting and facilitating measures for the protection and assistance of tourists, both domestic and foreign, during their travel around the country.

Lapid said there is a need for the government to adopt and implement an integrated approach in tourism development to realize its full potential as an important economic tool necessary for national development.

The senator noted that tourists are rarely knowledgeable about the laws of the country they are visiting, or about the processes in filing a complaint in case they become victims of abuses or crimes.

There were many reports for many years now about foreigners becoming victims of extortion, either by, airport personnel or immigration officials. They even fell victim to enterprising Filipinos.

Just recently, an Austrian couple filed a complaint against a taxi driver for charging them exhorbitant fare and another extra charge for the luggage.

Republic Act No. 9593, or “The Tourism Act of 2009,” declares tourism as an engine of investment, employment, growth and national development.

Tourism has emerged as the third engine of economic growth in the Philippine service sector, next only to the remittances from overseas Filipino workers and the Information Technology-Business Process Management (IT-BPM) sector.

The Philippine Statistics Authority noted that the tourism sector contributed 12.7 percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) for the year 2018 which amounted to P2.2 trillion. The industry is likewise a source of employment as the share of employment in tourism industries to total employment was recorded at 13 percent or P 5.4 million in 2018.

Lapid further noted that tourist arrivals for this year continue to flourish with the Department of Tourism (DOT) reporting a growth rate of 15.62 percent covering the month of May 2019 as compared to the figures of May 2018. South Korea, China and the United States registered the three highest volume of tourists equivalent to more than 50 percent of the total tourist arrivals for May 2019.

“To be able to sustain this upward trend experienced by the sector, it is necessary that programs, policies and projects are put in place to protect the welfare of both foreign and domestic tourists in order to boost our image and stature as an international tourist destination. Therefore, the coordination and cooperation among the different government agencies related to tourist protection and assistance must be fostered,” Lapid said.

Lapid’s SB 878 proposes the creation of the Tourist Protection and Assistance Task Force to be composed of the DOT, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Transportation (DOTr), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Justice (DOJ), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other government and private sector representatives.

The Task Force will serve as the umbrella agency to ensure the adoption of uniform standards on signages, promotion of multi-lingualism on travel and tourism information, establishment of an assistance system, and the creation of help desks, among others, Lapid added. SENATE.GOV.PH