MANILA - Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon is raising several red flags in the proposed budget of the Department of Tourism (DOT) for 2016.
Ridon singled out the P196.6 million allotted for "bottom-up budgeting" (BUB) projects in the DOT budget, explaining that it could be used for electioneering purposes, especially by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), which oversees BUB projects.
"We can say that this is part of the Liberal Party's large pork barrel for Mar Roxas' candidacy," Ridon said.
The lawmaker earlier questioned the BUB mechanism, for being "highly vulnerable to corruption" and containing a "DAP-like" provision that enables local government officials to cancel and replace projects already indicated in the annual General Appropriations Act.
There is a total of P24.7 billion allotted in the 2016 budget for BUB projects, which is disaggregated in 14 implementing agencies, including the DOT.
Ridon also questioned the P1.15 billion budget under the DOT for "locally-funded projects" for lack of details.
"It's part of the P648-billion in-agency lump sum that we've questioned earlier," he explained.
DOT BUDGET: P3.6B
Tourism officials presented their pitch for a P3.6 billion budget for 2016 at the House appropriations committee today. This marks an increase of over P1 billion from the 2015 budget.
Tthe Office of the Secretary's budget alone is 28% higher to sustain the market development, planning, initiatives and regulatory programs implemented in 2015.
The DOT also presented its achievements for 2014, when it recorded inbound tourist arrivals of 4.8 million. Visitors had an average length of stay of over 10 nights, while inbound visitor average daily expenses stood at over 103 US dollars.
The top inbound markets or visitors come from Korea, USA, Japan, China, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, Canada, Malaysia, United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Germany. The biggest spenders are Australians while Germans stayed the longest. Total revenues in tourism stood at 1.4 trillion pesos in 2014.
Over 4.7 million were employed in the tourism industry.
Ridon said poor infrastructure coupled with a "disastrous transportation system" are some of the main reasons that it is "highly unlikely" that the Philippines will reach the 10 million targeted international tourist arrivals by 2016.
"With all due respect to Tourism Sec. Mon Jimenez, this representation believes that tourism promotion can only do so much to drive tourism growth rate. With the current state of our infrastructure and transportation system, the 10 million arrival target for 2016 will remain like that - a target," Ridon said.
The lawmaker cited the 2014 annual report of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) which shows that while the Philippines recorded a new high in international tourism arrivals in 2014, at 4.8 million, the country still falls behind neighboring countries like Malaysia (27.4 million tourist arrivals), Singapore (11.8 million), Indonesia (9.4 million), and Vietnam (7.9 million).
Data from UNWTO also show that the Philippines also remains to have only a 1.3 percent share in the total international tourism receipts in the Asia-Pacific Region, with the country earning only a total of USD 4.8 billion in international tourism last year.