SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The House committee on tourism has approved a substitute bill seeking to create an inter-governmental task force for the protection and assistance of tourists in the country.
The bill substituted House Bill 2963 filed by Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, seeking to establish an intergovernmental task force for international visitor assistance, and HB 1828 by Rep. Alfred Vargas, seeking to prevent the harassment of tourists in the country.
The bill declares the State’s recognition of tourism as a major contributor to the country’s economic growth. Towards this end, the State shall endeavor to enact measures to protect and assist tourists, both domestic and foreign, during their travel around the country.
Within 90 days after the approval of the proposed “Tourist Protection and Assistance Act,” the Secretary of the Department of Tourism (DOT) shall establish an inter-governmental task force, to be known as the Tourist Protection and Assistance Task Force.
Through the concerned national government agencies and local government units (LGUs), the Tourist Protection and Assistance Task Force shall fulfill the following duties: adopt uniform standards on signage for use throughout the Philippines to facilitate travel around the country; provide directional signage in tourism facilities and destinations, including airports, land border crossings, and bus train, and other public transit locations; and prepare and disseminate multi-lingual travel and tourism information and promotional materials.
Moreover, the task force shall: establish a toll-free telephone assistance system run by multilingual operators to provide assistance to domestic and foreign tourists; coordinate with LGUs the establishment of tourist help desks in identified tourist destinations; and institute measures to prevent unlawful acts or harassment from being committed on tourists.
The task force shall be composed of the following: DOT Secretary as chairperson; Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) as vice chairperson; and the Secretaries of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Department of Justice (DOJ), Director-General of the Philippine National Police (PNP), a representative from the Road Board of the Philippines, and representatives of other government agencies and private sector entities as members.
The task force shall meet whenever necessary. Its funding shall be charged against the existing appropriation of the DOT as contained in the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
Funds for the implementation of the programs and projects that shall be approved by the task force shall be included in the appropriation of the implementing agencies concerned. For LGUs, the funding shall be taken from their internal revenue allotment and other internally generated income.
Arroyo said the country’s tourism industry has been a consistent source of foreign exchange earnings and employment opportunities. It also promotes international goodwill and showcases to the international community the rich and colorful socio-cultural life of Filipinos.
“Creating such task force will make the Philippines a premier travel and tourism destination in the world,” said Arroyo.
Vargas said preventing the harassment of tourists, through the task force creation, will ensure their pleasant stay in the country, hence securing the development of the country’s tourism industry and its contribution to economic development.
The committee on tourism is chaired by Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez. /R. Bundang