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Bill seeks to penalize harassment of tourists

MANILA, Philippines - In an effort to make the Philippines “tourism-friendly,” a senior administration lawmaker has filed a bill in the House of Representatives to penalize individuals who try to solicit or harass local and foreign tourists in the country.

 House Bill 1828 authored by Rep. Alfred Vargas would help ensure that the Philippines remains tourist-friendly, especially now that it is gaining recognition among foreign tourists as one of the finest destinations for beaches, mountains, islands and diving spots.

 “The tourism industry is vital in our economic development as it has contributed 7.8 percent to the country’s domestic product,” he said in relation to his measure, the “Anti-Harassment of Tourists Act.” 

 “Thus, not only does tourism help spread our heritage, but it also supports the grassroots economy, advances work creation and increases the consumption of local produce,” he said in a statement. 

 The Quezon City congressman lamented that there are still “incidents when local vendors and service providers resort to intimidating, or worse, bullying tourists to buy their products or avail of services.” 

 “Thus, tourists end up being traumatized during their stay in the country, causing the tourism industry to suffer in the long run,” Vargas related.

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 Under the bill, the Department of Tourism, local government units and barangay officials would train local vendors and service providers on responsible marketing practices instead of forcing their products on tourists.

 “Through this measure, we are ensuring that our tourists have a pleasant experience in the country, thus securing the development of the country’s tourism industry and its contribution to economic development,” he added.

 Likewise, the measure seeks to penalize persons found to be harassing domestic and foreign visitors, like those demanding unlawful solicitations.

 “It shall be unlawful for a person to repeatedly and aggressively solicit business from tourists who have already expressed their desire not to be bothered by solicitations,” the bill stated. 

 Based on the latest data, for the month of May 2017, visitor arrivals reached a total of 532,757 or an increase of 19.6 percent compared to the May 2016 visitor count of 445,449. 

 “Generally speaking, the world holds the Philippines in high regard, from our world-class destinations and wonderful tourist attractions to the warmth and hospitality of Filipinos,” Vargas said.

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