Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has sought to heighten measures for tourists in House Bill 8981 or the proposed “Tourist Protection and Assistance Act” that was approved on third and final reading last week.
Arroyo’s bill proposes an intergovernmental task force to be known as the “Tourist Protection and Assistance Task Force.” It shall be responsible in instituting and facilitating measures for the protection and assistance of tourists, both domestic and foreign, during their travel around the country.
In the bill’s explanatory note, Arroyo stressed the need for 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.
The Speaker said the tourism industry is a consistent source of foreign exchange earnings and employment opportunities and also 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.
Among the duties of the proposed Tourist Protection and Assistance Task Force are the adoption of uniform standards on signage for use throughout the Philippines to facilitate travel in the country and provision of directional signages in tourism facilities and destinations, including airports, seaports, land border crossings, highways, and bus, train, and other public transit locations.
Similarly, the Task Force shall be responsible in preparing and distributing 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 LGUs the establishment of tourist help desks in identified tourist destinations, and institute measures to prevent unlawful acts or harassment committed on tourists.
The Task Force shall be composed of the Tourism secretary or the duly designated representative as chairperson and the Interior Secretary or the duly designated representative as vice chairperson;
Members to the Task Force shall be composed of the Transportation secretary or his representative; the Public Works secretary; the Justice Secretary; the director general of the Philippine National Police; a representative from the Road Board of the Philippines; and their representatives or officials of other government agencies and private sector entities as may be determined by the chairperson to be appropriate to the Task Force’s mission.
The amount necessary to cover operational expenses of the Task Force shall be charged against the existing appropriation of the Department of Tourism 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 implementing agencies concerned.
For LGUs, funding shall be taken from their internal revenue allotment and other internally generated income.