P35.2-B reserved for tourism development in 2015 budget

By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo, BusinessMirror

Posted at Aug 13 2014 07:29 AM | Updated as of Aug 13 2014 03:29 PM

MANILA -- Identified as one of the economy's ''low-hanging fruits,'' the tourism sector is being given an extra push in 2015 with a proposed 17-percent increase in the government funds.

Of the Aquino administration’s P2.6-trillion national budget proposal for 2015, P35.2 billion falls under its Tourism Development Program (TDP), Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad said in an interview with the BusinessMirror. This is higher than the P30-billion allocation of the TDP for 2014.

From data provided by the Department of Budget and Management, the TDP earmarks funds for eight regular line agencies including the Department of Tourism (DOT), as well as key executive offices and government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs), which have programs or projects that are seen boosting the tourism sector’s economic output.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) gets the largest chunk of the TDP budget at P16.25 billion, followed by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) at P10.26 billion, the DOT at P2.18 billion, the Department of Justice (P577.5 million), the Department of Labor and Employment (P501.5 million), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (P311.85 million), Department of Trade and Industry (P97.75 million), and the Department of Foreign Affairs (P86.55 million).

“Other Executive Offices” will get a P27-million allocation under the TDP. Abad said these offices include the “National Commission for Culture and the Arts, which will contribute in promoting and preserving world heritage sites and the establishment of museums, and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, which handles the restoration and management of heritage sites and structures.”

Asked what the DOJ had to do with tourism, the budget chief explained “the Bureau of Immigration [BI] has an allocation for its National Justice Information System, and facilitates the enforcement of immigration, deportation and alien-registration laws, including intelligence and security services.” The BI is an attached agency of the DOJ.

“Special purpose funds” amounting to close to P5 billion will also be allocated under the TDP primarily as budgetary support to GOCCs (P4.78 billion) and for miscellaneous personnel benefits(P123.18 million), which is “earmarked for the hiring of additional immigration officers for the BI.”

Abad said GOCCs include the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB); the National Electrification Administration for its Sitio Electrification Program and the Barangay Line Enhancement Program; and the National Power Corp. “which handles power generation, capacity addition and transmission-line development, including the operational efficiency of existing power plants.”

Many tourism destinations in the provinces need more reliable power supply to keep attracting visitors. The resort island of Boracay in Aklan, for instance, has been suffering from power interruptions in the last quarter.

The TPB is an attached agency of the DOT tasked to sell the Philippines to its existing tourism markets abroad. Abad stressed that “we continued using the Program Budgeting approach in designing this Tourism Development [Program]. This method furthers inter-agency collaboration and ensures that all the efforts of our contributing agencies are concentrated in achieving our tourism targets.”

The Aquino administration is targeting to attract 8.2 million foreign visitors and 51.7 million domestic tourists in 2015. Its proposed national budget for 2015 is currently being discussed in Congress.

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