Sunday, 15 February 2009

Philippines taps tourism investments

Tourism overhaul okayed by Congress
By Fel V. Maragay
The Manila Standard

A bicameral conference committee has approved the final version of the administration-sponsored bill, which seeks to reorganize the Tourism Department and to attract more investments in developing tourism attractions and facilities.

The bill also envisions the establishment of “tourism enterprise zones” in strategic areas, such as Cebu, Davao, Bohol, Laguna, Cavite, Boracay, Palawan and Iloilo to lure foreign and local investors in developing scenic, historical and other places with high tourism potentials in the country.

“There is no superlative that can describe how important this piece of legislation will be to our people who are looking for jobs or business opportunities,” said Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on tourism and principal author of the measure.

Gordon, who chaired the Senate panel in the bicameral committee, said the bill opens additional channels for the infusion of investments needed to keep the economy growing.

The former Tourism secretary said the tourism bill would give the people the power to pull themselves out of economic recession that has begun to hit themselves hard.

“Our favorite example of this is what is currently happening in Intramuros with History Town and the Best of the Regions. In a single weekend, Intramuros received over 6,000 visitors, which resulted in taho vendors earning more than the basic wage earners, calesa drivers earning more than cab drivers, and stall owners are doing more business than some locators in the malls,” Gordon said.

Tourism does not only create more jobs and spur business, but also revive the ordinary Filipino’s pride and compels him to take stock of himself.

“With tourism, we discover more than places. We discover and regain our pride as Filipinos. We have a beautiful country and Filipinos excel in many things. That is something money cannot buy—pride, respect and dignity,” he said.

Gordon said he expects the committee report on the bill to be ratified on March 7.

The Senate contingent in the bicameral committee included Senators Lito Lapid, Pia Cayetano, Alan Peter Cayetano, Loren Legarda and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

The House panel was composed of Reps. Edgardo Chatto (chairman), Raul del Mar, Florencio Miraflores, Del de Guzman, Philip Pichay, Ma. Carissa Coscuella, Bienvenido Abante, Darlene Custodio and Juan Edgardo Angara.

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