THE Department of Tourism (DOT) has proposed some P3.4 billion for its budget in fiscal year 2019, as it targets foreign visitor arrivals to reach 8.2 million that year.
At the House Committee on Appropriations hearing on Wednesday, DOT officials led by Secretary Bernadette Fatima Romulo Puyat, defended their proposed budget for 2019, which is a little less than the P3.48 billion that was approved for this year. She told the BusinessMirror the slight decrease in DOT’s proposed budget was due to the Department of Budget and Management’s shift to a cash-based budgeting program, and has affected other government agencies as well.
Of next year’s proposed budget, some P3.08 billion will be allocated to the Office of the DOT Secretary (Osec), while the rest will go to the Intramuros Administration (P66 million), and the National Parks Development Committee (P241.27 million).
“In accordance with the implementation of the program expenditure classification which started this year, more than half (52.56 percent) or P1.62 billion of the DOT-Osec budget will be spent for market and product development, including the implementation of the branding program,” revealed DOT spokesman and Undersecretary for Tourism Development Planning Benito C. Bengzon Jr. in his budget presentation to lawmakers.
While he didn’t disclose the exact amount that will be spent for the branding campaign, Bengzon said the DOT will be bidding out for a media buying agency that will coordinate and organize the advertising as well as media placements for the branding campaign.
He also told lawmakers that the DOT strategy will be to expand and tap new markets next year such as Turkey, Israel, “other countries in Europe and even those in the Asean,” even as promotions will still continue in the Philippines’ key markets such as South Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, among others.
He stressed that part of the agency’s marketing strategy is to “go to the digital platform” as research has shown that more tourists are now relying on their tablets and mobile phones in making decisions on travel plans and holidays.
Meanwhile, Rep. Ruffy Biazon (LP, Muntinlupa) pressed the need for increased safety procedures and trained personnel in the wake of the recent fatal accidents involving foreign tourists. He said the DOT should ensure that tour guides and boatmen be properly trained in first aid and emergency procedures, such as CPR.
In response, Romulo Puyat vowed to allocate 30 percent of the agency’s P26 million training budget next year for safety training.
The lawmaker, an active scuba diver, also asked the DOT to provide hyberbaric chambers in the popular diving spots in the Philippines. Such chambers are vital in treating scuba divers who have not properly decompressed when rising to the surface.
According to the Tourism and Infrastructure Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza), about P200 million has been allocated by the government firm this year for the procurement of hyperbaric chambers and construction of housing facilities.
In an interview, Tieza COO Pocholo Paragas said these hyberbaric chamber systems (HCS) have already been turned over to the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao, and Ospital ng Palawan, which will be operationalized after the training of qualified medical personnel.
HCS have also been procured for Anilao, Batangas, Camp Navarro in Zamboanga, and Panglao in Bohol. Other HCS locations are up for approval by the Tieza Board, he said, in Boracay Island, Apo Reef, and Siargao. Tieza is the infrastructure arm of the DOT.
For 2019, the DOT is also targeting tourism revenues amounting to P2.89 trillion, from the projected P2.6 trillion this year; an 8.6 percent share to the gross domestic product (from 8.4 percent); an increase in employment to 5.8 million (from 5.6 million); a 13.6-percent share to total employment (from 13.4 percent); and 79.3 million domestic travelers from (76.3 million).