By ELLALYN V. RUIZ
Lawmakers have called on the Department of Tourism to be more aggressive in attracting more tourists and generate revenues for the government.
At the House Committee on Appropriations’ deliberation on the proposed R3.082-billion budget of the DoT for 2019, Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said the agency should step up efforts to promote tourism.
“We have to exert more effort in promoting our country to entice more tourists to come to the Philippines. I believe that our country is more beautiful. I have been to Southeast Asian countries, and I believe we have more to offer than them,” Pimentel said.
Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita Suansing said there is a need for the DoT to work closely with the Department of Public Works and Highways in determining the priority projects for the development and improvement of tourism roads.
Suansing said far-flung tourist destinations should be made more accessible to the public by building good roads.
During the hearing, DoT Undersecretary Arturo Boncato Jr. disclosed that the DPWH earmarked R18.6 billion for the development and completion of tourism roads for 2019.
“Of the amount, R15 billion shall be utilized for ongoing road constructions, while R3 billion shall be for new proposals,” he said.
He said the DoT initially projected R38 billion to R39-billion funding for its Tourism Infrastructure Program. The amount will be used to ensure the continuity of their projects and meet their target of covering most of the country in terms of roads leading to tourist destinations by 2022.
DoT Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. assured that they launched initiatives to make the country tourist friendly.
These include the improvement of the arrival experience; construction of tourism roads; development of new airports; installation of night ratings in smaller airports to allow night flights; advancement of promotions; and enhancement of safety and security measures in tourist destinations.
Bengzon said they are mulling over to deploy multilingual front liners to provide convenience to tourists from non-English speaking countries, such as China, Korea, and Japan, when conversing with airport service providers.