MANILA, Philippines – With a vision to make the country a world-class tourism capital, the Senate ratified last Thursday the Tourism Act of 2009 before it adjourned its session for a five-week Holy Week break.
Sen. Richard Gordon, principal author of the measure, said the passage of the Tourism Act will promote “sustainable tourism development” that would meet the needs of tourists and host regions while protecting the opportunities for the country. The passage of the bill came after almost three months of deliberations during the bicameral conferences of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
“When we talk about Palawan, it has 1,500 islands. It has more islands than Maldives, so that can now pose a competition in Maldives overnight… That’s just in Palawan. One-fifth of the islands in the country is in Palawan,” Gordon said.
Gordon also sees a vision that the Visayas region has the potential to become the “beach capital of Asia.” “You talk here of billions of investments and income,” the senator added.
“This is a good chance for all to invest now in tourism especially that there is a financial crisis,” Gordon said in an interview, adding that the new law would also raise the standards of the tourism industry in the country.
“We also required the creation of tourism offices in the local levels. There is a (provision on) protection of heritage sites, religious institutions and cultural sites,” Gordon said, citing Intramuros as an example.
Gordon said the measure is a consolidation of Senate Bill 2213 and House Bill 5229, an act declaring a national policy for tourism as an engine of investment, employment, growth and national development and strengthening the Department of Tourism (DOT) and its attached agencies.
Gordon, a former tourism secretary, said President Arroyo is expected to sign the bill into law within the Lenten break, stressing that the measure could ward off possible effects of the global financial crisis to the country’s economy.
He said tourism is the fastest and most efficient way of generating foreign exchange, investments and employment. Once the measure is signed into law, it will spur the creation of jobs and open additional channels for the infusion of the much-needed investments in the country’s economy, Gordon said.
“This measure will definitely boost domestic tourism as it will provide the needed infrastructures to reinvigorate local productivity. An increased productivity means more jobs for the people and more revenues for the government,” Gordon said.
The Act aims to promote a tourism industry that is ecologically sustainable, responsible, participative, culturally sensitive, economically viable and ethically and socially suitable for local communities.
It also aims to create a favorable image of the Philippines within the international community, thereby strengthening the country’s attraction as a tourism destination and eventually paving the way for other benefits that may result from a positive global view of the country.
Once signed into law, the Tourism Act will mandate the creation of the Tourism Infrasrtucture and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) andTourism Economic Zones (TEZ).
The TEZ is any geographic area that is capable of being defined into one contiguous territory; it has historical and cultural significance, environmental beauty, or existing or potential integrated leisure facilities within its bounds or within reasonable distances from it.- Christina Mendez, Philippine Star