A forgotten tourist promotion agency

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

Why has Malacañang not posted the five private sector members of the Tourism Promotions Board? That question is bugging the tourism industry and agency employees.

Created by law in 2009, the TPB is supposed to lead in marketing the Philippines to foreign and domestic vacationers. But for the past three years it has been sputtering with only half a board of directors. An acting chief operating officer keeps employees busy with ad hoc projects. The agency largely is detached from the government’s tourism push under the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” tag.

Speculations are rife about what’s happening. It can’t be that Malacañang has forgotten all about promoting tourism, the TPB’s main task. In his State of the Nation only last July, President Noynoy Aquino enthused about enticing ten million tourists a year by term’s end in June 2016. That’s five times the actual 2.1 million in the six months to June 2012. Only all-out selling can lure in travelers. The TPB was patterned after a similar agency in Thailand, which notched a record 19 million tourists in 2011.

It can’t be that the TPB has no promotions fund either. It has P500 million for 2012, turned over by the budget to the tourism department. The Tourism Act of 2009 (RA 9593) that converted into the TPB the old Philippine Convention & Visitors Corp. also saw to such annual funding for the first five years. The TPB is to have 11 board directors, six from the government and five from private industry. The six government reps are the Secretaries of Tourism (as chairman), Foreign Affairs, Trade and Industry, and Transportation and Communications, and the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority head (as members), and a COO (as vice chairman). The six have not convened; the COO remains vacant, held momentarily by a tourism assistant secretary. Far functional are the TPBs of Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, and even Myanmar.

And it can’t be because the tourism industry has failed to get its act together. True, when the TPB was newborn, the industry was split into two main factions and many splinters as to who should represent them. Nominations were so politicized. The law states that the TPB’s five private sector directors are to come from the Tourism Congress’ five main sectors. Three nominees each shall be sent to Malacañang by the accommodation enterprises; travel and tour services; land, sea and air tourism transporters; conventions and exhibits organizers and suppliers; and other tourism enterprises. The past administration could not fill up the five directorships because the Tourism Congress wouldn’t take off. It finally did last year, and nomination short lists were submitted last January.

Still, no go. Why?

Meanwhile, inquisitive insiders have been promised that the DOT soon will turn over the P500 million and promo work to the idled TPB. When and how, if the TPB has no functioning board of directors?

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REACTIONS: Three of the numerous, to last Monday’s listing of street crime modus operandi (Gotcha, 10 Sept. 2012).

From Gigi Bartolama, Bulacan: “Not to forget, (18) Dugo-dugo, playing on the gullibility of house helpers. Gangsters either have cased your home or just calling random. When your maid answers, a frantic voice will introduce him/herself as ‘your Sir/Mam/amo’ or a friend of the family. They’ll say you met a terrible bloody (dugo-dugo) accident and need money for emergency treatment. She (the maid) has to pry open the locked bedroom door or the dresser drawer to get the cash therein, or the jewelry and firearm for hocking. She is to meet up with a designated person near a specified hospital to turn those over. Having done the ‘good deed,’ the worried maid will be surprised when you come home unscathed.”

From Bella Ramirez: “Months ago, coming out of a bank, a young man embraced me, saying, ‘Ay, Tita, matagal ko na ikaw hinahanap. Best friend ko ang anak mo sa school. May ipapakiusap sana ako sa iyo.’ Being poor of sight, I keep my eyes on the steps in front of me to avoid stumbling. Without looking up, I shoved the man away, grunting, ‘Sorry, I’m an old maid. Wala akong anak.’ My son and I had a good laugh at my presence of mind.

“Another time, I received a call from a male that my dad had a heart attack while shopping. Could I bring him at least P20,000 at the hospital emergency room so he can be moved to a private ward? Please hurry and meet him at the hospital gate. I called my dad; he was home reading the papers.

“Yet another time a man went to our house late one afternoon, telling our maid that our parish priest had sent him to borrow plates for a church function. He wanted to enter our house to pick out the plates himself. Our maid called the church, and was told there was no order to borrow plates.”

From Erick San Juan, Mandaluyong City: “Every night outside the EDSA Shrine a gang robs passersby of money and mobiles, at knifepoint. The police don’t seem to care. The blotter will speak for itself.”

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

E-mail: [email protected]

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