By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The House of Representatives has unanimously passed on third and final reading a bill seeking the creation of “Tourist Protection and Assistance Task Force”.
House Bill 8981, the proposed “Tourist Protection and Assistance Act”, principally authored by Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, got the nod of 158 House members who were present during the recent plenary voting.
Under the bill, the “Tourist Protection and Assistance Task Force” or “Task Force” is mandated to institute and facilitate measures for the protection and assistance of tourists, both domestic and foreign, during their travel around the country.
Arroyo strongly urged 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 tourism industry has been branded as an ‘engine of economic growth’ given its capacity to boost and jumpstart any economy especially countries like the Philippines,” she said.
She cited the country’s tourism industry generates employment opportunities, and foreign exchange earnings, and promotes international goodwill.
“At the same time, it highlights and makes known to the international community of the rich and colorful socio-cultural life of the Filipinos,” Arroyo said.
House Bill 8981 provides that the uniform standards on signage for use throughout the Philippines shall be adopted to facilitate travel in the country. The measure also provides the provision of directional signages in tourism facilities and destinations, including airports, seaports, land border crossings, highways, and bus, train, and other public transit locations.
Under the bill, the Task Force is expected to prepare and disseminate multilingual travel and tourism information and promotional materials and establish a toll-free telephone assistance system run by multilingual operators to provide assistance to domestic and foreign tourists.
“It shall also coordinate with the LGUs the establishment of tourist help desks in identified tourist destinations and institution of measures to prevent unlawful acts or harassment committed on tourists,” the measure said.
Sitting at the Task Force are the Secretary of the Department of Tourism (DOT), the duly designated representative as chairperson, and the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the duly designated representative as vice chairperson.
Members to the Task Force shall include the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) or the duly designate representative; Secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) or the duly designated representative; Secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the duly designated representative; Director General of the Philippine National Police (PNP) or the duly designated representative; a representative from the Road Board of the Philippines; and such other representatives of other government agencies and private sector entities as may be determined by the Chairperson to be appropriate to the mission of the Task Force .
According to the House Bill 8981, the amount necessary to cover operational expenses of the Task Force shall be charged against the existing appropriation of the DOT as contained in the annual General Appropriations Act.
“Funds for the implementation of the programs and projects approved by the Task Force shall be included in the appropriation of the concerned implementing agencies,” it said.
“For LGUs, funding shall be taken from their internal revenue allotment and other internally generated income,” it added.
Other authors of the bill are Deputy Speaker Frederick Abueg, Reps. Alfred Vargas, Corazon Nuñez-Malanyaon, Lucy Gomez, Lord Allan Jay Velasco, Erico Aumentado, Elisa Kho, Vini Nola Ortega, Glona Labadlabad, Tricia Nicole Velasco-Catera, Mark Go, Enrico Pineda, Michelle Antonio, Carlos Roman Uybarreta, Salvador Belaro Jr., Maria Carmen Zamora, Ma. Lourdes Aggabao, Jose Tejada, Federico Sandoval II, Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, Erlpe John Amante, John Michael Duavit, Carlos Cojuangco, Celso Lobregat, Mark Aeron Sambar, Emi Calixto-Rubiano, Isagani Amatong, Jesulito Manalo, Juliette Uy, Paolo Evarardo Javier, Victor Yap, Noel Villanueva, Mario Vittorio Mariño, Josephine Ramirez-Sato, Angelina Tan, Ricardo Belmonte, Gus Tambunting, John Marvin Nieto, Christopher De Venecia, Manuel Jose Dalipe, Horacio Suansing Jr., Estrellita Suansing, Eric Olivarez and Joey Salceda.