As state of the nation addresses are being delivered left and right,Â Rep. Rene L. Relampagos deemed it proper to give a report of the state of the House of Representatives Committee on Tourism of which he is the chairman.
â€œAs of date, there are 64 bills and 7 resolutions filed with the Committee. These includes proposal for volun-tourism, medical tourism, film tourism, intergovernmental task force of international visitor assistance, national eco-tourism policy, frame work for film and television tourism, among others,â€ Rep. Relampagos said.
Approved on third reading and submitted for Senate for action are various legislative proposals to declare various sites in the country as tourism sites, eco-tourism zones, eco-cultural tourism zones or tourism development areas. Among are the declaration of the whole province of Misamis Oriental as tourism zone; Nati Spring, Datablo Falls and Pilot Cave in Sultan Kudarat as tourism sites; Mt. Tapulao in Zambales as an eco-tourism zone and forest reserve; Sagrada Faamilia Caves and Mt. Pinatubo also in Zambales as eco-tourism sites, Municipality of Barlig in Mt. Province as a tourism development area; Municipality of Talaingod in Davao del Norte as eco-cultural tourism zone; La Mesa Dam Ecopark in Quezon City as a tourist spot; Mapaso Cold and Hot Springs, Tagnote Falls â€“ Mt. Hilong-Hilong Park, Punta Diwata and Lantawan Ecopark all in Agusan Del Norte as priority tourism sites; twin lakes of Balinsasayao and Danao and Mabinay Caves in Negros Oriental as tourism destinations; Capisaan Cave System in Nueva Vizcaya as a tourism destination; Shrine of the Battle of the Pulang Lupa as historical park and eco-tourism site in Marinduque, Basilica of Our Holy Rosary in Manaoag, Pangasinan as pilgrimage area and tourism destination, beaches in Albay West Coast a tourist spot as well as the declaration of tourism development areas in the island of Camiguin,
Also with the Senate is the bill on Farm Tourism which aims to enact policies that would promote and develop farm tourism in the country, strengthen sustainable organic agriculture in a farm tourism environment; uplift the quality of life of farmers, farmer-land owners, and rural people; provide an avenue for the people to learn more about food production; generate employment in the farming communities; engage small farmers and farm workers in trainings and knowledge transfers; and encourage the Filipino youth to appreciate and support farming.
Among the resolutions include that which recommends to the Secretaries of the Department of Tourism and Department of Public Works and Highways the consideration of the proposals or endorsements of members of Congress in the evaluation and prioritization of projects under the DOT-DPWH Convergence Program in the absence of an endorsement from the Regional Development Councils. The ultimate goal is to expedite the process and ensure continuous development and improvement of tourism infrastructure projects especially in the countryside.
The proposed law on the imposition of â€œGreen Fees,â€ authored by Rep. Relampagos, has already passed the technical working group level and is now ready for approval of the Committee.Â These green fees, which may initially be from fifty pesos (Php 50.00) to one hundred pesos (Php 100.00), shall be charged to all tourists going to the country holding international passports.
Earlier, the lawmaker said that, â€œproceeds of this collection will be used exclusively for the development and conservation of the provinceâ€™s natural and cultural heritage. These funds can fill a significant gap in improving tourism products and services at the same ensure that all sectors get a benefit from the tourism industry.â€
In the Tourism Committee meetings, various briefings were given by the Department of Tourism and its attached agencies on the state of tourism in the country as well the challenges facing the tourism industry.
One such issue discussed in the meeting of the Committee was the controversialÂ Philippine Coast Guard Memorandum Circular No. 02-13 which mandates the cancellation of ferry trips during public storm warning signal no. 1. Rep. Relampagos recalled that while the discussion on the PCG issuance was initiated by the Resolution of the Bohol Provincial Tourism Council urging review of the same, he clarified that the policy has a rippling effect on all ferryboat operators throughout the country.Â He said, â€œnot only is the tourism industry affected but trade and commerce as well due to the delay in the delivery of goods and other services.â€ The hearing on the issue started last year and the stakeholders who attended were required to submit their respective position papers. In the committee meeting, he stressed, â€œultimately, we have to look into a more considerate approach on the issue without compromising the safety of passengers. We work towards a common goal and that is important.â€
Finally, the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Tourism (JCOCT) co-chaired with Sen. Lito Lapid of the Senate met for the second time this year to discuss on the impasse between TIEZA and BIR on the grant of tax incentives to Tourism Enterprise Zones (TEZs). According to TIEZA, â€œto date, there are three (3) designated TEZs: Resorts World in Pasay City , Ciudad de Victoria in Bulacan and Queenâ€™s Castle in Cebu . These TEZs, however, are not fully enjoying the incentives under RA 9593 because BIR refuses to issue the necessary revenue regulation to enable implementation of the incentives.â€ This has resulted to loss of revenue for the government, loss of jobs and the danger of losing the investment altogether. Further, this has compelled TIEZA to suspend the processing of other applications for TEZs.
In relation to the issue on TEZs, a public inquiry on the proposed tourism economic zone (TEZ) located in the municipality of San Vicente , Palawan was conducted by the Committee last June 15-17, 2015.
In conclusion, Rep. Relampagos said, â€œAs I have often emphasized, we need to make sure of the active and integrated approach of all related agencies government. The coordinating mechanism is already laid out in the law. In fact, the law further requires the creation of an annual infrastructure development plan for tourism purposes alone.â€ â€œMore than attracting tourists, our aim is really for revenue generation. And let us not forget that ultimately, we have to make sure that benefits are spread and felt by all the people,â€ he emphasized.