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Tourism sector seen gaining as Arroyo inks law

Vol. XXII, No. 199 [ BusinessWorld Online ]

Wednesday, May 12, 2009 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES


MACTAN, CEBU — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday signed Republic Act 9593 or the National Tourism Policy Act of 2009 into law, a move officials said would hopefully boost the local economy.

Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace H. Durano said the new law had given the Department of Tourism (DoT) a better engine to promote the industry.

"This law gives the DoT and the sector a broader policy and expanded budgetary support. But there’s still a need for the government to continue spending on airports, roads and other key infrastructure projects," he told reporters at the sidelines of the opening of the P4-billion Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort and Spa.

For her part, Mrs. Arroyo said the new law "strengthens the Tourism department and gives appropriate incentives."

"It institutionalizes initiatives earlier made. I’m really looking forward to that," she said.

Mr. Durano said the law was schedulted to take effect by end of the year, after the law’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR) are drafted.

"There are a lot of provisions in the IRR that we need to coordinate with other departments, like for example ... the Philippine Retirement Authority will be under us already. [The] DoT is now a member of the Civil Aeronautics Board and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, so we also need to coordinate with these agencies," he said.

The law also gives the Tourism department P500 million for the first five years to be used for promotions.

Under the new law, the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) will be renamed the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone or TIEZA, a corporate body that will designate, regulate and supervise tourism enterprise zones as well as develop and manage tourism projects. The law states that 40% of the proceeds from the sale of PTA assets will be used as the agency’s capital.

Mr. Durano said among the properties lined up for auction were the Club Intramuros golf course, which is estimated to attract P2-3 billion, and the Kanirag golf course in Busay and the Argao resort in Cebu.

"We are now resolving legal issues to sell these properties. When we privatized the Boracay water system which was an asset of PTA, that generated for us close to P1 billion," Mr. Durano said.

Duty Free Philippines, meanwhile, will be reorganized to become DFP Corp.

The Philippine Convention and Visitors Corporation will become Tourism Promotion Board.

Mr. Durano also said the government could waive additional tax incentives stipulated in the law to avoid a possible revenue loss of close to P6 billion.

"We are willing to keep the present level of incentives. We just have to iron out with the Finance department how we can soften the additional incentives," he said.

Finance Secretary Margarito B. Teves yesterday said his department was maintaining its position that there were better ways to assist the tourism industry than additional incentives. — Bernardette S. Sto. Domingo

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