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Saturday, April 13, 2024

‘Hotel Conference’ mentality

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“If the government office concerned does not have enough space within its premises, then the official in charge of the office ought to rent space in a government convention center or similar state-owned facility”

Government agencies have the penchant for conducting seminars, conferences and “workshops” at out-of-town resorts or at high-end hotels in the National Capital Region.

Those out-of-town destinations include tourist sites in the cities of Baguio, Tagaytay, Iloilo, Cebu and Davao; Clark and Subic in Central Luzon; and El Nido in Palawan.

Almost always, the chosen facility must provide first class amenities akin to a five-star hotel.

The preferred hotels in Metropolitan Manila are the very expensive ones, particularly those at the cities of Parañaque, Pasay, Makati and Manila, and at Bonifacio Global City, all of which charge enormous fees.

Since the activity is an official function of the government agency behind, the expenses are charged to the taxpayers.

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More often than not, the government officials and employees who organize and participate in these activities will not be willing to use the facilities of these high-end destinations if the bill is to be for their individual account.

Thus, because the taxpayers foot the bill, the sky is often the limit for the government officials and employees attending these activities.

Now here’s the sad reality.

The matters taken up in these expensive seminars, conferences or workshops are those which naturally occur in the course of the business of those government agencies.

Whatever supposed “work” is tackled in these seminars could have been taken up inside the offices of the government agencies concerned.

Thus, taxpayers ask, “what is it that these agencies need to take up in an out-of-town resort or inside a high-end hotel that cannot be taken up in the less expensive confines of their offices?”

Many government agencies have function rooms big enough to accommodate hundreds of participants. If there isn’t room enough, then the meeting can be held online, as in the way many big private corporations hold their stockholders meetings.

If the government office concerned does not have enough space within its premises, then the official in charge of the office ought to rent space in a government convention center or similar state-owned facility.

There, the rental payments due will redound to the state’s coffers, instead of the treasury of private enterprises which charge exorbitant rates.

The late President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos put up the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in the Pasay City reclamation area to provide facilities for big and small conferences, both local and international.

It has ballrooms for big assemblies, and smaller function rooms which can accommodate groups as small as 50 or thereabouts.

Another similar venue is the government-owned Development Academy of the Philippines in Tagaytay City. It has state-of-the-art facilities.

Teacher’s Camp in Baguio City is another similar venue. Its function rooms and living accommodations can accommodate both small and big assemblies.

There is likewise the National Arts Center at Mount Makiling in Laguna which offers quaint outdoor facilities.

In the end, the government, which owns these venues, benefits. Taxpayers’ money goes back to the government coffers.

That being said, why can’t government agencies hold their seminars, conferences and workshops there?

Apparently, holding these seminars, conferences and workshops at out-of-town resorts or in high-end hotels is just an excuse to go on an expensive junket at government expense.

The University of the Philippines is notorious for frequently holding faculty seminars, conferences and workshops outside of its vast campuses, often at very distant private destinations, all at the expense of the government.

UP’s campuses in Diliman and Los Baños have enough facilities for these activities and yet UP still holds them elsewhere.

Those out-of-town trips are junkets at government expense.

I understand that almost every summer, the Supreme Court holds sessions in Baguio City, where the justices also have individual luxurious villas complete with state-of-the art facilities.

Why does the SC have to hold sessions in Baguio, and maintain those luxurious villas, all at immense government expense, when it has sufficient modern and air-conditioned offices in Manila?

What is it that has to be done in Baguio that the SC can’t do in Manila anyway?

Why does the SC have those luxuries, paid by the taxpayers, when other state agencies are required to scrimp on tight budgets?

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