State Visits: Be frugal and bring home results
The purpose of state visits is to bring in investments and other positive results to the country, stressing that such trips should be made not only productive but also frugal, Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.) today said.
"State visits, or even working visits, are important since we must compete with the rest of the world. It opens doors of opportunities for our country and promotes our interests abroad. However, it must achieve concrete and tangible results for our people that are commensurate, if not more than the cost, to the taxpayer," he said.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her party are being criticized for reportedly having spent close to P1 million for a dinner at a classy New York restaurant during her visit to the United States last week to meet with US President Barack Obama.
"If it is true that such an amount was spent, that will not be good. We are not a rich country. Our people are suffering from poverty and the purpose of these foreign travels is to promote and push our country and interests in the world stage to bring in economic and political dividends like tourism, trade and investments for their benefit," Gordon said.
In his official travels abroad, Gordon always made sure that his trips were fruitful and used the opportunity to further our national interest.
In 1981, his first official travel when he was mayor of Olongapo, Gordon went to the US for a USAID leadership seminar. He grabbed the opportunity to push for the benefits of Filipino World War II veterans as America's debt of honor and lobbied for the joint use of their military bases in Subic and Clark for trade and subsequently continued to do so in future trips until both eventually came to pass.
"When we were promoting Subic in the 1990's as SBMA chairman, my staff and I scrimped on hotel accommodations, had hosted meetings over dinner and lunch and relied on our embassy logistics available to cut down costs," Gordon said.
"We worked ourselves to the bone with full appointments to promote and bring in investments to Subic. Our record is clear, close to US$ 3 Billion in investments and 90,000 jobs," he added.
As tourism secretary in year 2000, Gordon also did the same thing. His travels abroad were aimed at promoting the country's tourism. He used creativity to cut costs by tapping overseas Filipino workers as volunteer tourism ambassadors in places with no tourism attaches.
"Instead of lavish and expensive exhibits at our country's booths in major Tourism Trade Fairs in Europe, we personally manned the booths and did the promoting ourselves with the private sector. In our travels we always made sure to get the Philippines published in travel journals and on TV by way of interviews to cut advertising costs," said Gordon.
Despite the negative image, SARS, 911, Oakwood and terrorism threats, Gordon got the message across for people to visit the Philippines, jobs were created and tourist arrivals started to grow breaking two million in 2002.
"State visits must achieve substantial results, not promises for our people. We should spend as little as possible while bringing back as much as possible in terms of investments and jobs, and forging better relations with the countries we are visiting," Gordon said.