The Senate Committee on Finance Subcommittee “J” on Thursday has submitted for plenary debate the proposed P3.573 budget of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and its attached agencies for 2023.
Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco expressed her elation with the development and offered the DOT’s sincerest appreciation to Senator Nancy Binay, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Tourism and Senate Finance Subcommittee J, and to Senators Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva, JV Ejercito, Koko Pimentel, Loren Legarda, and Robinhood Padilla for their manifestation of support to the Department’s plans and programs that are enclosed in its seven-point agenda and three key strategies to revitalize the Philippine tourism industry in the coming years.
Frasco noted the impact of the Senate Subcommittee’s favorable decision on the DOT’s budget for FY 2023, with even some Senators strongly advocating for an increased budget for the DOT in the coming years.
Poe said “the tourism industry, supposedly, contributes about P2.48 billion to our GDP. So, that is 12.8 percent of our total economy. That’s quite a substantial number, and yet the budget that you’re [asking] is quite minuscule. I think maybe not now but, moving forward, I think that you should get a bigger share of the budget.”
Poe made a reference to Frasco’s presentation of the tourism budget appropriations in the ASEAN region, which showed that the Philippines, with a $49 million tourism budget, is faring quite behind its neighbors, including Indonesia, with a tourism budget as high as $358 million.
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte meanwhile backed the commitment of the Tourism chief to work with the different agencies on crafting a “whole-of-government” approach to addressing concerns such as inadequate infrastructure that have for long hobbled the Philippines from competing with Southeast Asian neighbors.
For instance, he said, an airport is the first and last place that a foreign tourist sees in a country, but the DOT has no say whatsoever how airports are run in the Philippines because these are under the supervision of the DOTr.
Villafuerte recalled that in the allocation for the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2 law) under the national budget, he had proposed the allocation of a P10-billion outlay for tourism infrastructure under the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), but this was not included in the final version of the 2022 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
Villafuerte said infrastructure is the key to tourism development, as he pointed out that the beaches of Thailand and Malaysia are more popular destinations even if we have better beaches in the Philippines, because they have better infrastructure going to these places.
“Phuket’s airport alone is even bigger than our No. 1 gateway, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA),” he added.
Villafuerte had moved that the CA committee on tourism endorse Frasco’s appointment as DOT secretary to the 25-member bicameral body that screens presidential appointees.