Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco expressed elation over the swift approval of the House of Representatives

Expressing her sincere appreciation, Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco of the Department of Tourism (DOT) lauded the House of Representatives for their quick action in approving an increased budget for the fiscal year 2024. The agreement was reached during the plenary session held on Tuesday, September 19, 2023.

Tourism Secretary Frasco was especially thankful to Isabela Representative Faustino “Inno” Dy, V, who played a pivotal role in the decision-making process. “The unanimous support from the House members indicates their understanding of the role of tourism as a significant contributor to the nation’s economy. We vow to utilize the allocated funds effectively to realize President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.’s vision for the Philippines as an Asian tourism hotspot,” she said.

Frasco also discussed the ongoing initiatives to elevate the tourism sector, which has shown promising signs of recovery during the first year of the Marcos administration. She identified several key areas that would benefit from improvement, such as infrastructure, digital transformation, and equitable tourism development throughout the Philippines.

As of the third week of September, the DOT reported that visitor arrivals had reached 3.87 million, which is nearly 81% of their 4.8 million target for the year 2023.

Initially, the DOT had requested Php 2.99 billion for 2024, which was considerably less than the current year’s allocation of Php 3.7 billion. This sparked concerns among legislators. Representative Dy in his opening statement noted, “While tourism has been identified by the President as one of the pillars of our economic recovery, it continues to receive one of the lowest budgets among the national agencies, in fact, it was reduced by about a billion pesos from last year’s budget.”

Representative Dy also compared the Philippine tourism budget with those of neighboring ASEAN countries, arguing that the DOT’s limited budget was not reflective of its performance. “Our ASEAN neighbors have given utmost importance to tourism as their major economic source by providing it with a budget that is double, if not triple of what our Philippine Department of Tourism is receiving; such meager budget does not parallel the milestones that the DOT has achieved thus far, and that in itself is an achievement or a remarkable feat,” he added.

OFW Partylist Representative Marissa Del Mar Magsino also joined the call for a larger budget, asserting that the proposed reduction would be detrimental to the tourism industry’s growth and could jeopardize the country’s long-term economic goals.

The DOT contributed a staggering Php 1.87 trillion and 5.35 million jobs to the Philippine economy in the previous year. In 2022, the Philippines even exceeded its goal of 1.7 million international visitors, with a total of 2.65 million international arrivals.

Secretary Frasco closed her remarks by pledging that the approved budget would be efficiently allocated to overcome the challenges currently faced by the tourism industry. She also cited several of the DOT’s significant accomplishments, such as the development of tourist rest areas across the nation and the upgrade of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2.

The budget increase is envisioned to further stimulate the tourism sector, recognized as one of the key pillars for the Philippines’ economic recovery.