Bill on creation of task force for protection of tourists hurdles final reading

The House of Representatives unanimously approved on third and final reading a bill which seeks to provide protection and assistance to tourists.

All 158 House Members present during the plenary voting thumbed up House Bill 8981 or the proposed “Tourist Protection and Assistance Act” which is principally authored by former President and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The bill seeks the establishment of an intergovernmental task force to be known as the “Tourist Protection and Assistance Task Force” or “Task Force” which 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 her explanatory note of HB 2963, on which HB 8981 was based, Speaker Arroyo said there is a 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,” Speaker Arroyo 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,” Speaker 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.

Likewise, the Task Force shall be responsible in the preparation and dissemination of multilingual travel and tourism information and promotional materials as well as the establishment of a toll-free telephone assistance system run by multilingual operators to provide assistance to domestic and foreign tourists.

It shall also coordinate with the LGUs the establishment of tourist help desks in identified tourist destinations and institution of measures to prevent unlawful acts or harassment committed on tourists.

The Task Force shall be composed of the Secretary of the Department of Tourism (DOT) or the duly designated representative as Chairperson and the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) or the duly designated representative as Vice Chairperson;

Members to the Task Force shall be composed of the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) or the duly designate representative; Secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) or the duly designated representative; Secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the duly designated representative; Director General of the Philippine National Police (PNP) or the duly designated representative; a representative from the Road Board of the Philippines; and such other representatives of other government agencies and private sector entities as may be determined by the Chairperson to be appropriate to the mission of the Task Force .

The amount necessary to cover operational expenses of the Task Force shall be charged against the existing appropriation of the DOT 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.

Other authors of the bill are Deputy Speaker Frederick Abueg, Reps. Alfred Vargas, Corazon Nuñez-Malanyaon, Lucy Gomez, Lord Allan Jay Velasco, Erico Aumentado, Elisa Kho, Vini Nola Ortega, Glona Labadlabad, Tricia Nicole Velasco-Catera, Mark Go, Enrico Pineda, Michelle Antonio, Carlos Roman Uybarreta, Salvador Belaro Jr., Maria Carmen Zamora, Ma. Lourdes Aggabao, Jose Tejada, Federico Sandoval II, Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, Erlpe John Amante, John Michael Duavit, Carlos Cojuangco, Celso Lobregat, Mark Aeron Sambar, Emi Calixto-Rubiano, Isagani Amatong, Jesulito Manalo, Juliette Uy, Paolo Evarardo Javier, Victor Yap, Noel Villanueva, Mario Vittorio Mariño, Josephine Ramirez-Sato, Angelina Tan, Ricardo Belmonte, Gus Tambunting, John Marvin Nieto, Christopher De Venecia, Manuel Jose Dalipe, Horacio Suansing Jr., Estrellita Suansing, Eric Olivarez and Joey Salceda. /Ma. Victoria Palomar / News and Documentation Section-Press and Public Affairs Bureau/ House of Representatives of the Philippines