Senate-House bicam panel sends tourism bill for Congress' ratification
Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today hailed the passage by the Senate-House bicameral conference committee of the tourism bill he authored and sends it for Congress' ratification before it takes its month-long recess starting on March 7.
Gordon, chairman of the Senate tourism committee and head of the Senate contingent, said he expects President Arroyo to sign it into law early next month.
"There is no superlative that can describe how important this piece of legislation will be to our people who are looking for jobs or looking for business opportunities," he said at the conclusion of the Senate-House bicameral conference panel meeting.
"This bill, when it becomes a law, will bring investments directly to our provinces and spur economic growth of unprecedented proportions there," he added, referring to Senate Bill (SB) 2213, also known as the Tourism Act of 2008.
SB 2213's counterpart consolidated measure is logged as House Bill 5229, principally authored by House tourism committee chairman Rep. Edgar Chatto.
Aside from Gordon, the Senate contingent to the bicameral conference includes Senators Manuel "Lito" Lapid, Pia Cayetano, Alan Peter Cayetano, Loren Legarda, and Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Meanwhile, Chatto was joined by Reps. Raul Del Mar, Florencio Miraflores, Del De Guzman, Philip Pichay, Ma. Carissa Coscoluella, Bienvenido Abante Jr., Darlene Antonino-Custodio, and Juan Edgardo Angara.
The bill seeks to declare a national policy for tourism as an engine of investment, employment, growth and national development. It also aims to reorganize the tourism department and its agencies to effectively and efficiently implement that policy.
It also seeks for the establishment of "tourism enterprise zones" in strategic areas, such as Cebu, Davao, Bohol, Laguna, Cavite, Boracay, Palawan and Iloilo, in the country to lure foreign investors and tourists to visit places rich with history and culture.
Gordon pointed out that the urgent passage of the administration-sponsored measure will spur the creation of jobs and open additional channels for the infusion of the much-needed investments in the country's economy.
He added that the tourism bill would give people the power to pull themselves out of the vise of the economic recession that Filipinos are beginning to feel.
"Our favorite example of this is what is currently happening in Intramuros with History Town and the Best of the Regions. In a single weekend, Intramuros received over 6,000 visitors which resulted in taho vendors earning more than basic wage earners, calesa drivers earning more than cab drivers, and stall owners are doing more business than some locators in malls," he said.
Gordon said that tourism does not only provide jobs and spurs business, it also revives the ordinary Filipino's pride and compels him to take stock in himself.
"With tourism, we discover more than places. We discover and regain our pride as Filipinos. Maganda ang bansa natin at magagaling ang mga Pilipino! That is something money will never buy - pride, respect, and dignity," he said.