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Puyat: DOT to focus on sustainable tourism


By Analou De Vera

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat has committed that all programs, projects, and activities in her department will focus on creating a culture of sustainable tourism.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo- Puyat

IN THE HOT SEAT- Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo- Puyat at Thursday’s Manila Bulletin round-table forum (Albert Garcia/ MANILA BULLETIN)

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat has committed that all programs, projects, and activities in her department will focus on creating a culture of sustainable tourism.

Speaking to editors at the Manila Bulletin Hot Seat on Thursday, Puyat underscored that with the tourism industry’s “increasing influence” on the country’s economic and cultural development, it “can also be a force in driving sustainable develop­ment in the country.”

Citing a report from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Puyat said the tourism sector has contributed 12.2 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) last year or an equivalent of P1.929 trillion. The figure is 24.2 percent higher compared to DOT’s contribution in 2016.

Puyat also said the tourism sector employed about 5.3 million last year, which was 13.06 percent of the Philippines total employment.

Despite the closure of the world-famous Boracay Island, visitor arrivals have increased by 9.74 percent from January to July equivalent to 4.3 million visitors, compared to 3.92 million covering the same period in 2017.

Puyat said South Korea was the country’s top source market followed by China, United States, Japan, and Australia.

Puyat stressed, “it is not the numbers that matter most, but ultimately how to strike a balance between business opportunities and our social responsibilities.”

Sustainable tourism

The rehabilitation of Boracay is a “pilot undertaking on sustainable tourism,” Puyat said.

“Dubbed as one of the best islands in the world, the six-month closure of Boracay was considered a bold move on the government’s part, as it feared to severely affect the tourism industry as a whole… It also showed the political will of our President,” she said.

She hopes Boracay will be a model for sustainable tourism and it’s soft opening is just among the several phases of rehabilitation efforts by the Interagency Task Force.

“We will gradually open the island to give way to the completion of ongoing rehabilitation projects such as road expansion, drainage, and sewer lines constructions, and giving the island ample time to rest,” she said.

Now that the first phase of rehabilitation will soon be completed, the second phase of the rehabilitation is expected to end by April next year. The last phase, however is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

Last month, the DOT announced the initial list of 25 establishments (2,063 hotel rooms) that will operate during the soft-opening, after complying with the required documents.
“The DOT faithfully adheres to the ‘No Compliance, No Opening’ policy,” she said.

The task force will likewise maintain a tourist capacity of 19, 215 persons per day in the island.

“We will also prohibit smoking and drinking in public places, especially on the white beach area. We will also ban big parties in the island,” said Puyat.

She noted that guidelines set forth by the interagency task force are actually local ordinances and local laws “which only needed enforcement.”

Puyat also stood firm that no casino or gambling activity shall operate in the island.

“The President’s stand remains that gambling shall be prohibited in Boracay. Whether may existing, hindi sya bubukas. That is already the President’s directive,” she said.

Keeping the slogan

The tourism chief said they will retain the tourism slogan: ‘It’s More in the Philippines’ as it has proven to be an effective tourism slogan.

“This is also a way of ensuring continuity in the department’s marketing efforts, thereby establishing the country’s identity as a tourist destination,” she said.

Puyat also pointed out that she is in close coordination with the “industry geniuses,” as they are in the process of refreshing the tourism slogan and they are offering their services for free.

“What I love, people are going out of their way to help… All of these people, wala pang pumunta sa akin na nag charge,” she said.

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