MANILA — Actor-turned-Quezon City 5th District Rep. Alfred Vargas is batting for incentives for filmmakers to encourage foreigners to make their movies in the Philippines.
In a privilege speech Wednesday afternoon during the plenary session of the House of Representatives, Vargas said the country missed out on becoming a shooting location for the latest installment of Tom Cruise action franchise, “Mission Impossible.”
“According to reports, producers of 'Mission Impossible' took interest in shooting in the Philippines sometime in 2019. This, however, did not push through, and the crew instead went to Thailand to shoot,” Vargas said.
“Bakit nga ba hirap tayong mahikayat ang mga banyaga na gumawa ng pelikula sa Pilipinas? Mayaman naman tayo sa magagandang tanawin. World-class ang beaches natin. Dagdag pa riyan, magaling mag-Ingles ang mga Pinoy. Hindi problema ang pakikipag-usap sa mga banyaga.”
“I believe, Mr. Speaker, that the problem lies in the lack of incentives for filmmakers. According to reports, one of the reasons why the 'Mission Impossible' team chose Thailand over the Philippines was due to its attractive incentives program, which includes tax rebates of up to 20 percent. There’s an additional 2-percent discount if the film promotes Thai tourist spots,” he said.
Vargas said the Philippines on the other hand caps rebates for film projects at P10 million or roughly US$206,000. “That’s loose change for foreign filmmakers with multimillion-dollar budgets,” he said.
“Mr. Speaker, magastos po ang paggawa ng pelikula. Hindi lang sa talent fee ng mga artista at sweldo ng crew napupunta ang budget. Kailangang mag-renta o bumili ng equipment na gagamitin sa shooting. May bayad rin ang bawat lokasyon ng shoot. Kung may visual effects na kailangan sa pelikula, lalong tataas ang production cost. Kaya naman natural lang sa producers na piliin bilang shooting location ang mga lugar na may magagandang incentives. Mas maraming rebates, mas makakatipid sa production.”
Vargas proposed a Film Philippines Act that will institutionalize the grant of cash rebates to qualified foreign film and television productions. Foreign nationals working on these projects will also be eligible for a multiple entry visa, which will be valid for one year but can be extended for 180 more days. The bill will also allow foreign filmmakers to also bring their equipment here tax-free, provided that these cannot be obtained domestically.
“Of course, equal support will be given to local film and television productions. The bill will mandate local government units to set aside half of the revenues from the collection of amusement taxes to incentivize shooting of film and television programs in their respective jurisdictions,” Vargas said.
The bill would create Film Philippines Office or FPO to promote the Philippines as a viable filming location for foreign film and television productions. The proposed agency will also establish a one-stop shop to process applications for the incentives, as well as help foreign filmmakers secure the necessary permits to shoot here. The FPO will also lead the promotion of local films and TV programs overseas, as well as link foreign productions to local talents and suppliers for their filming needs.
Vargas argued that making the Philippines an attractive filming location will result in a tourism boom. “This already happened in New Zealand, where the small town of Matamata has become a must-visit destination for tourists as the home of the Hobbiton, where the 'Lord of the Rings' movies were filmed. The hit television series, 'Game of Thrones,' has also led to a surge in tourist arrivals in Croatia,” he explained.
“Nangyari na rin ito sa Pilipinas. Naging patok sa mga turista ang isla ng Caramoan sa Camarines Sur dahil dito shinoot ang reality TV series na 'Survivor: Caramoan' noong 2012. Ang nag-iisang hotel sa isla noong 2006, naging 23 na,” he added.
“Ang pag-unlad ng Caramoan, pwede ring mangyari sa ibang bahagi ng bansa. Pwedeng mapasama sa bucket list ng mga turista ang mga isla, beach, bundok at bayan na makikita nila sa pelikula.”
Vargas added that foreign crews will surely tap talented Filipino artists and professionals for production, like what happened when “The Bourne Legacy” was filmed here.
“The Hollywood film contributed US$20 million or approximately P1 billion to the economy by way of hiring a local production crew and spending on other filming requirements. The Philippines would likewise be able to showcase Filipino craftsmanship if we could entice more foreign productions to shoot here,” he said.
“The list of skilled Filipino filmmakers, visual artists, actors and professionals is endless. Aside from economic gains, we will also benefit from exposure to new production technologies that foreign crews will bring. This, in turn, will allow us to improve the production of our own movie and TV shows.”