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House seeks to suspend DOT’s star rating system for hotels

Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia said there are claims that the star rating system for hotels implemented by the DOT is only a “waste of time, effort and government funds.” File photo/AJ BOLANDO

MANILA, Philippines - Leaders of the House of Representatives are seeking the suspension of the Department of Tourism (DOT)’s “star rating” system following the discovery of loopholes and allegations of corruption in the grading scheme for hotels, resorts and apartment hotels.

Cebu Rep. Raul del Mar made a motion to suspend the star rating system yesterday during an inquiry into the issue by the House committee on tourism, chaired by Bohol Rep. Rene Relampagos.

The lawmakers were investigating reports that funding for the scheme lined the pockets of some DOT officials.

“Because of the legitimate issues raised by (tourism industry stakeholders), I move that we suspend the implementation of the star rating system until matters are resolved,” Del Mar said.

The panel agreed to continue the inquiry next week. The investigation was prompted by a resolution filed by Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia seeking an investigation into the star grading system contained in DOT Memorandum Circular No. 2012-02 dated May 2, 2012.

Garcia said there are claims that the star rating system implemented by the DOT is only a “waste of time, effort and government funds.”

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She said several accommodation establishments assail not only the veracity of the results of the star ratings issued by DOT, but also the propriety, necessity and wisdom of the system.

Garcia said the DOT received a $7.1-million technical assistance grant from Canada through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to fund the skills training programs for the private sector, local government units (LGUs), civil society and DOT agencies, and to implement the new system of accreditation and the development of standards for service quality.

Emmanuel Gonzalez, managing director of the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa, told the committee the DOT’s office on Tourism Regulation, Coordination and Resource Generation has been making it appear that the star rating system is necessary and mandated by international bodies.

“From start to finish, they have been misleading the public, and they’re trying to mislead you and me. There’s only one major country in the world that uses that system, and that’s Ireland,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez and Robert Lim Joseph, president of the Network of Independent Travel and Allied Services Philippines Inc., said the DOT has provided no detailed accounting of the $7-million grant from the Canadian government and from the Asian Development Bank.

They said the fund was apparently given to unidentified consultants tapped by the DOT.

They said the system gives too much leeway to DOT “auditors” and that rating is already being done for free by websites like Agoda, Expedia and Booking.com, which base their ratings on feedback from customers.

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