HB 8961, which includes former President and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo among its authors, recognizes that the State shall endeavor to enact measures for the protection and assistance of tourists, both domestic and foreign. It also recognizes that tourism is a major contributor to the country’s economic growth.
“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. It 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 Filipinos,” noted Speaker Arroyo.
With this, Speaker Arroyo cited a need for the government to adopt and implement an integrated approach in tourism development to be able to realize its full potential as an important economic tool necessary for national development.
The measure ultimately aims to make the country a premier travel and tourism destination in the world.
To this end, the Secretary of the Department of Tourism (DOT) shall establish an intergovernmental task force, to be known as the Tourist Protection and Assistant Task Force.
The bill mandates the Tourist Protection and Assistant Task Force to undertake the following functions, through the concerned national government agencies and local government units (LGUs): (a) adoption of uniform standards on signage for use throughout the Philippines, (b) provision of directional signages in tourism facilities and destinations, (c) preparation and dissemination of multilingual travel and tourism information and promotional materials, (d) establishment of a toll-free telephone assistance system run by multilingual operators to provide assistance to tourists, (e) coordination with LGUs on the establishment of tourist help desks, and (f) institution of measures to prevent unlawful acts or harassment committed on tourists.
The task force shall be chaired by the Tourism Secretary, while the Vice Chairperson shall be the Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government.
Other members of the group are the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways, Secretary of the Department of Justice, Director-General of the Philippine National Police, a representative from the Road Board of the Philippines, as well as representatives of other government agencies and private sector entities appropriate to the mission of the Task Force, as determined by the Chairperson.
The bill is also authored by Rep. Alfred Vargas III (5th District, Quezon City), Corazon Nuñez-Malanyaon (1st District, Davao Oriental), Lucy Torres-Gomez (4th District, Leyte), Lord Allan Jay Velasco (Lone District, Marinduque), Erico Aristotle Aumentado (2nd District, Bohol), and Elisa Kho (2nd District, Masbate), among others.