Tourism: LGUs’ backbone for the future

The role of the local government units in the country is no doubt one of the most important roles for nation-building. It has, in fact, become the basic form of government that the people look to first before appealing to the national government.

It has been said that a stable and efficient local government unit is a sign of a productive and prosperous national government, and it could not be truer in the Philippine setting, as some local government units in the country are still striving to reach the uncertain road to progress.

Apart from farming and fishing, most local government units rely on tourism – a way to “sell” the destinations to local and foreign tourists alike to generate revenue.

In a way, the role of local government is to promote the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of their communities, and their involvement in tourism must be related to that.

LGUs have the mandate to craft their own tourism plan that sets out the priorities over the medium to longer term and how the local authority intends to contribute to community well-being.

To recall, the Philippine government saw the need to focus on tourism in order to capitalize on the lost opportunities that could have been captured from it. As early as 2007, the Department of Tourism identified the development of tourism real estates, establishment, and modernization of tourist accommodation facilities as priority activities.

For one, the national government has crafted laws and measures to ensure that local government units that will utilize tourism as their primary source of revenue will be assisted.

One of the enacted laws is Republic Act 7160 of 1991 or the Local Government Code, in which Section 17 provides for the LGU’s responsibility for basic services and facilities that include tourism development and promotion programs, tourism facilities and other tourist attractions, including the acquisition of equipment, regulation and supervision of business concessions, and security services for such facilities.

It added that LGUs, as a corporate entity (Section 15), are also vested corporate powers with full autonomy (Section 22) in proprietary functions and management of their economic enterprises.
However, the condition that this provision is subject to the limitations provided in this Code and other applicable laws negates the ‘full autonomy’.

Another enacted law is Republic Act (RA) 9593 also known as the Tourism Act of 2009, which was enacted in 12 May 2009 and is also considered as the Omnibus Tourism Code.

Its general provision stated in Section 1 is to harness its potentials “as an engine of socio-economic growth and cultural affirmation to generate investment, foreign exchange and employment and to continue to mold an enhanced sense of national pride for all Filipinos.” The state’s perspective of tourism, as with the rest of the other country’s experience and plans, is seen through the direct contributions on job creation, foreign exchange generation and stimulation of large and usually foreign investments.

However, there is a wide array of concerns that LGUs could address in making decisions towards developing the tourism industry. For while LGUs are in a strategic position to plan and facilitate tourism development in their areas of jurisdiction, they are also challenged by the realities of expanding roles and responsibilities, budget pressures, prioritization given a constraint in resources, as well as governance issues.

The LGUs must find ways to cope with these realities such as building networks, pursuing adequate funding, and enhancing local organizations.

And in line with this, the Marcos administration – through the Department of Tourism – has devised plans and steps to achieve its goal of helping out LGUs relying on tourism.

DoT’s 100 days

Marking President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s 100 days in office, the DoT also kicked off the groundbreaking of Tourist Rest Areas across the country, a collaborative and consultative tourism governance, opening up the Philippines to tourism confidence and investment, a diversified tourism portfolio, and the pronouncement of a clear course of action.

DoT Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco – in her 100 days — described her first three months in the agency as “positive and productive,” as she underscored the Philippines’ wins in the short period, including the objectives that have been identified to facilitate the faster recovery of the tourism industry.

To carry out Marcos’ directive to improve the overall tourist experience, the DoT in partnership with the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority and with the support of the local government units successfully led the groundbreaking of the first batch of Tourist Rest Areas in Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon, Samal Island in Davao del Norte, and in Carmen and Medellin towns in Cebu.

The DoT secretary said that the TRAs will cater to travelers in need of clean restrooms and a place to rest in between their journeys. Reflecting the President’s pronouncements during his first State of the Nation Address on the need to promote an enhanced Filipino brand, the TRAs will adopt the use of local materials and design elements.

The facilities will also be equipped with information centers and pasalubong centers that will showcase a variety of products that are proudly made in the Philippines.

The agency is set to break ground on six more TRAs across Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao in attainment of its target of breaking ground on ten of such facilities for 2022.

Frasco was also able to engage in numerous dialogues with stakeholders from the Tourism Congress of the Philippines and various associations and organizations from the accommodation, aviation, culinary, hospitality, and transport sectors, among others.

Realizing the importance of identifying a clear course of action to attain the President’s vision to transform tourism into a primary engine of socio-economic recovery for the Philippines, Frasco applied her extensive local government experience and the inputs derived from her listening tours with industry stakeholders in identifying the DoT’s specific objectives and strategies in the next six years.

Provision of tourism employment

Through the initiative of Frasco to coordinate with the Department of Labor and Employment, the Trabaho, Turismo Asenso! Philippine Tourism Job Fair was launched simultaneously in cooperation with local government units in the National Capital Region, Cebu, and Davao from 22 to 24 September 2022 with the objective of filling in gaps in the country’s tourism workforce.

The three legs of the DOT-DOLE joint job fair program aggregated 157 tourism-related companies and offered a total of 8,310 jobs. Out of the over 9,000 cumulative registrants, 395 were hired on the spot while 8,305 were considered near hires, or those who may be hired or placed depending on the interview outcome and pre-employment requirements compliance.

Underscoring LGUs’ crucial role in tourism growth

A multi-awarded local chief executive prior to her appointment as tourism secretary, having been a three-term mayor of Liloan, Cebu, among Frasco’s first directives as tourism chief was for all regional offices and attached agencies of the DoT to reach out to LGUs within their jurisdiction to establish a strong collaboration between national and local governments.

In her first 100 days as DoT chief, Frasco commenced listening tours on the regional and local level, meeting with regional directors and local officials to discuss how their respective tourism destinations can be further developed and promoted.

The DoT is now undertaking the formulation of National Ecotourism Strategic Action Plan 2023-2028 to manage, protect, and conserve the country’s environment and natural resources, as well as cultural heritage for the present and future generations, and the National Tourism Development Plan for 2023-2028, which shall serve as the blueprint of the Tourism Industry under the Marcos administration.

No doubt, the local government units in the country will see tourism as its most lucrative revenue generator for years to come.

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