The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – Tourism Secretary Alberto Aldaba Lim lamented yesterday that some sectors in the tourism industry have been spreading disinformation about the industry, in general, and the Tourism Congress, in particular.
Lim was reacting to a statement by Alma Rita Jimenez, president of the present Tourism Congress, who was quoed as saying that the problems in the tourism sector could easily be resolved if only Lim would “respect the law” by recognizing the present composition of the Tourism Congress and working with it.
Lim explained that it was the House committee on tourism itself that asked that the Tourism Congress be revamped as it considers the IRR that created it as not in accordance with the spirit and intent of the law.
This was validated by the committee chairman, Rep. Florencio T. Miraflores from Aklan, “The committee fully supports the secretary’s action of amending the IRR in order to conform with the intent and wordings of the law. This will necessarily affect the existence and membership of the present Tourism Congress. This may be the reason for the recent unreasonable attacks against Secretary Lim and his programs.”
Miraflores added that the committee reiterated the powers of the secretary to amend the IRR of the Tourism Act of 2009, and has in fact, urged him to do so during their last public hearing.
The Aklan representative commended Lim for taking firm action in resolving the problems the DOT chief inherited when he assumed the position last year with regard to the questioned legitimacy of the Tourism Congress and the challenged IRR of R.A. 9593 and the division this has created among legitimate tourism stakeholders.
Jimenez also claimed that they did everything to reach out to Lim to little avail and that the secretary ignored them.
The tourism chief said that the statement of Alma Jimenez is not true. “I presented the accomplishments and plans of the DOT during the Tourism Congress Assembly last November 26. In the development of the National Tourism Development Plan, we held several consultations with private sector associations, most of whom were members of the Tourism Congress. The Tourism Congress is a member of the Tourism Coordinating Council (TCC). Alma Jimenez herself attended two of the three TCC meetings, with Jaime Cura attending the third and most recent,” Lim said.
He added, “What is wrong with what the Department of Tourism’s efforts to give accredited primary and secondary tourism establishments direct membership in the Tourism Congress? As it is now, only tourism associations are members of the Tourism Congress and many stakeholders have been disenfranchised. We want to give the individual establishments a direct voice, as what the Tourism Act of 2009 calls for.”
It will be recalled that only about 50 people representing associations were present when the Tourism Congress was convened last Nov. 25, 2009 compared to over 1,000 accredited tourism enterprises that were supposed to compose the congress as mandated by the Tourism Act of 2009.
Lim further explained that they consulted over 1,000 tourism stakeholders in 16 regions throughout the country and that the Tourism Congress represents a small but vocal minority in the industry.
“Nevertheless, all my public statements have been to presume regularity (i.e. that the Tourism Congress is legitimate) in spite of the fact that the majority in the industry claim they are illegitimate because the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) that formed them is not consistent with RA 9593. I have recognized their nominees to the TIEZA. They blame me for removing their other nominees to TIEZA and TPB who were midnight appointees and were disqualified as a result of E.O. 2,” said Lim.
Wider Tourism Congress representation set
The private tourism sector can look forward to wider representation at the Tourism Congress with the amendment of Section 137 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act No. 9593 (otherwise known as the Tourism Act of 2009) by the Department of Tourism.
This after Tourism Secretary Alberto A. Lim was assured by congressmen at a committee on tourism hearing in Congress held recently of their support since he has the power to revise the controversial provision of the existing IRR prepared in 2009.
Under RA 9593, the Secretary of Tourism is supposed to convene a Tourism Congress composed of representatives of all accredited tourism enterprises and former government officials involved in the tourism industry within 30 days of publication of the IRR.
In the Tourism Congress convened last November 25, 2009 by then Tourism Secretary Ace Durano, only aggrupations and associations were invited as provided for in Section 137 of the existing IRR. Many accredited tourism enterprises appear to have not been invited.
According to the Congressmen present at the hearing led by Comfimittee Chairman, Rep. Florencio T. Miraflores, the DoT should have invited accredited tourism enterprises to the Tourism Congress. Inviting only aggrupations violates the law.
Secretary Lim may revise the IRR to conform to the law even if we do not direct him to do so, said Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, one of the main authors of the Tourism Act which created the Tourism Congress.
The Department of Tourism (DoT) submitted to the House Committee on Tourism its proposed amendment to the section in the IRR. We believe that the amendment is more in accordance with the law and will resolve existing sentiments of disenfranchisement within the tourism industry, Lim said.
He gave assurance that in the new Tourism Congress he will convene, all primary and secondary tourism enterprises who are accredited by the DoT will be invited, not just aggrupations or associations.
The proposed amendment is being distributed to accredited tourism establishments throughout the country for broad-based consultation prior to finalization and submission to the UP Law Center for publication. The DoT hopes to convene the new Tourism Congress within two month s time.
The officers of the Tourism Congress led by Alma Rita Jimenez and Jaime Cura who were present at the hearing assured the committee that they are willing to relinquish their positions for the good of the industry.
The Tourism Congress serves as the private sector consultative body to assist the government in the development, implementation and coordination of Philippine tourism policy.
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