There’s nothing wrong with promoting emerging and lesser-known destinations across the Philippines to make it a tourism powerhouse in Asia.
The sector needs all the help it can get to compete with rival tourism spots in the region, especially in Southeast Asia.
Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco was spot-on when she vowed to prioritize the marketing of unsung destinations in the country, akin to a successful tourism program in her home province Cebu, which aided local governments in developing lesser-known tourism sites.
Frasco referred to Cebu’s experience, its Suroy-Suroy Sugbo program, which her mother, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, introduced in 2004. Ms.
Frasco wants to replicate Suroy-Suroy Sugbo, or wandering in Cebu, throughout the Philippine archipelago. The travel industry credited the program for making destinations like Bantayan, Camotes and southern Cebu more popular to local and international tourists.
But bringing in tourists to less-traveled destinations will remain a challenge. Potential visitors to these little-known places will never get to see them if the government does not provide infrastructure and logistics support to the tourism sector. The Philippines, for one, does not offer modern airports that could provide seamless travel to the preferred destinations of tourists.
The Philippines is probably the only nation in the world that does not have a modern airport with railway links. For one foreign tourist, traveling from the airport to his local destination spot could be a nightmare. American and European airports complement theirs with metros, or subways. The rail connection offers foreign tourists in the Philippines an option to avoid chaotic road traffic conditions in getting to their next immediate destination.
Getting out of the airport and motoring to lesser-known destinations as suggested by Ms. Frasco will not be a smooth ride for the travel-weary tourist. Besides, the country’s transport logistics are not run by professional organizations. How many times have we heard of foreign tourists being milked by cab drivers from the airport on their way to their dream tourism spot?
Ride-hailing app Grab Philippines found itself in hot water again after the Philippine Competition Commission slapped it with another P9-million fine for failure to fully refund its customers more than three years after the PCC first ordered the reimbursement.
The PCC first ordered Grab to refund P25.45-million to riders in 2019 and issued a second order in December of the same year. The agency then issued a third refund order in October 2020 for failure to deliver on the price monitoring commitment of the foreign-owned ride hailing service.
The PCC in 2022 told Grab to immediately release the remaining P19.3 million in refund to passengers after finding the ride-hailing app’s low disbursement of the refunds from previous fines.
After reviewing the compliance reports for previous penalties, the PCC found that just 24.1 percent of the total refund has been claimed from Grab by eligible passengers as of June 15, 2021, or P6.15 million out of the total P25.45-million penalty required by the PCC to be returned to Grab users.
The latest fine consists of P6 million for its alleged violation of the three separate orders issued by the PCC and P3 million for providing incorrect and misleading information in the compliance reports that the company submitted on the refund orders.
The latest penalties are on top of the over P63 million in fines the PCC imposed on Grab for violation of orders from the anti-trust body following its acquisition of Uber way back in 2018.
Grab did not take the latest penalties lightly.
“… we are surprised at PCC’s decision to fine us―given that we’ve been proactively engaging with them for over a year with proposals for alternative mechanisms to disburse the remaining administrative fees,” said Grab in a statement. The company added it would evaluate legal options over the additional P9-million fine.
Grab should tread the industry carefully after virtually creating a monopoly in the Philippines and giving the Filipino riding public little option in the ride-hailing service. The domination of one industry sector invites regulatory scrutiny and carries a price.