Rep. Rene Relampagos on Wednesday presided over the House Committee on Tourism meeting looking into the alleged arbitrary implementation of the Department of Tourism’s (DOT)â€™s new star rating system following allegations of corruption in the grading scheme for Philippine tourism enterprises.
Relampagos invited officers of DOT and other stakeholders to give them equal opportunity to explain their sides and hear their views on the matter.
Said investigation stemmed from the communication received by the Committee from Plantation Bay Resort on the hotel star rating system of the DOT as well as the resolution filed by Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia seeking an investigation into the said program contained in DOT Memorandum Circular No. 2012-02 dated May 2, 2012 dated May 2, 2012.
Cebu Rep. Garcia claimed that the DOTâ€™s star rating system needs to be revised as the criteria set out in the guidelines are subjective, unquantifiable and immeasurable. â€œIn many categories, the described distinction between a Very Good and an Outstanding rating, for instance, is so thin and vagueâ€.
The DOT, meanwhile, explained that the set of standards for the new star rating system was formulated in 2012 after a series of consultations with resorts, hotels, tourism stakeholders and tour operators across the country.
Undersecretary Maria Victoria Jasmin, who is spearheading the new rating system, also addressed the issue of the DOT obtaining grants from the Canadian government to cover the expenses of the program.
â€œWe never got a single centavo. It is the Asian Development Bank who got them. We have a program with ADB CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) worth $7 million but itâ€™s not only on accreditation. Thereâ€™s human resource development and regulatory impact assessment,â€ Jasmin explained.
Mr. Emmanuel Gonzalez, managing director of the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa, who was also present during the hearing, told the committee that the DOTâ€™s office on Tourism Regulation, Coordination and Resource Generation has been misleading the public, making it appear that the star rating system is necessary and mandated by international bodies.
â€œThereâ€™s only one major country in the world that uses that system, and thatâ€™s Ireland. In an internet age, any hotel can have a website, and anybody can post on TripAdvisor orexpedia.com,â€ Gonzalez asserted.
In her defense, Jasmin stressed that the customer reviews are based on personal opinions and therefore inconsistent. She added that R.A. 9593 mandates the DOT as the primary regulating agency and must formulate the standards of tourism.
Mr. Bobby Horrigan, director of Chaine des Rotisseurs and the Hotel and Restaurant Association of the Philippines, on the other hand, said they are the ones who requested for a star rating system from the DOT, adding that there might be a few loopholes in the program but is a work in progress.
Cebu Rep. Raul del Mar, meanwhile, made a motion to hold in abeyance further implementation of the hotel/resort star rating system until after submission and approval of the revised accreditation standards.
In closing, Relampagos and other congressmen had agreed to continue the inquiry to give the DOT a chance to amend the program. This way, he said, we can draw up a better and more objective star rating system for the benefit of the countryâ€™s tourism sector.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot to consider in improving the star rating system. I hope the DOT is taking serious note of the points raised by the stakeholders and members of the committee. These issues will be further discussed and hopefully resolved in succeeding hearings,â€ Relampagos concluded.