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House committee oks task force to assist tourists

The House committee on tourism has approved a substitute bill which seeks to create an inter-governmental task force to assist and protect international tourists in the country.

The bill substituted a measure filed by Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which seeks to establish an intergovernmental task force for international visitor assistance, and the one by Rep. Alfred Vargas that prevents the harassment of tourists. The committee is chaired by Leyte Rep.Lucy Torres-Gomez.

The proposed “Tourist Protection and Assistance Act” mandates the tourism secretary to form an inter-governmental task force, to be known as the Tourist Protection and Assistance Task Force within 90 days from the enactment of the law.

The task force shall adopt uniform standards on signage for use throughout the Philippines to facilitate travel around the country, and prepare and disseminate multi-lingual travel and tourism information and promotional materials, among others.

It will also set up a toll-free telephone assistance system run by multi-lingual operators and tourist help desks in identified tourist destinations.

The task force shall be composed of the tourism secretary as chair and the secretary of the interior and local government as vice chair. Members include the secretaries of health, public works, and justice; the Director-General of the Philippine National Police (PNP), a representative from the Road Board of the Philippines, and representatives of other government agencies and the private sector.

The task force’s funding shall be charged against the DOT’s existing appropriation under the General Appropriations Act (GAA).

Funds for the implementation of the programs and projects shall be taken from the appropriation of the implementing agencies concerned. For local government units, funding shall be sourced from their internal revenue allotment and other internally generated income.

Arroyo said the country’s tourism industry had been a consistent source of foreign exchange earnings and employment opportunities. It also promotes international goodwill and showcases to the international community the vibrant and colorful socio-cultural life of Filipinos.

“Creating such task force will make the Philippines a premier travel and tourism destination in the world,” she said.

Vargas said preventing the harassment of tourists would ensure their pleasant stay in the country,  thereby help in developing the country’s tourism industry and economic development.#