Clark, Pampanga — As part of her nationwide listening tours, Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco travelled to Clark, Pampanga on Thursday, July 21 to engage in back-to-back dialogues with all heads of Department of Tourism (DOT) regional offices and key tourism stakeholders based in Luzon, completing the first leg of listening tours for all DOT regional directors across the country barely a month into her stint as Tourism Secretary.
Completion of Listening tours for DOT Regional Directors
The tourism chief addressed the heads of the DOT offices in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Region 1 (Ilocos Region), Region 2 (Cagayan Valley), Region 3 (Central Luzon), Region 4A (CALABARZON), Region 4B (MIMAROPA), and Region 5 (Bicol Region).
“I had conveyed my intention to extend my hand of collaboration to all of our regions across the country in order to be able to fully exercise the mandate of the Department of Tourism, whose efforts need not only be concentrated in areas near the Central Office but most importantly, in the farthest areas, to allow the expansion of economic and livelihood opportunities for LGUs across the country, as this has been the clear marching orders of President Bongbong Marcos—to let our fellow Filipinos feel the benefits of countryside development,” Secretary Frasco.
Among the issues raised during the discussion revolve around the accessibility of landlocked tourism destinations, lack of flights and/or airports and roads, difficulties in hiring of regional personnel, and other administrative barriers, among others.
As she acknowledged the recurring concerns of the Regional Offices, Secretary Frasco vowed to deliberate on the identified problems and provide guidance to the offices.
“Certainly, these are matters that we note with serious consideration, with the intention to extend better assistance from the central office to your regional offices recognizing that it’s simply impossible for us to succeed as a Department, without the help, the input, and the success of our individual regions. And that is very important to me, recognizing that the success of each region will also spell the success of our country in general,” Secretary Frasco assured the regional directors.
Meanwhile, the participants expressed their appreciation to Secretary Frasco for initiating her “listening tours” in a bid to better connect and steer the tourism industry towards recovery.
“We appreciate this effort as it opens the communication line between sub-national and national, thus will lead to more cooperation, coordination, collaboration and support towards the advancement of tourism as an economic driver. It’s a good opportunity as well for us to align our strategies towards a clear directive coming from no less than the Secretary herself,” DOT-CAR Regional Director Jovita Ganongan said.
“To be heard, acknowledged and be felt by our tourism chief is an honor and privilege which gives us regional offices a sense of assurance for a promising road towards tourism recovery,” DOT-3 Regional Director Carolina Uy added.
Director Herbie Aguas–who also served as a Mayor prior to his appointment as Regional Director–also thanked Secretary Frasco, noting that this is his first time to be recognized and heard by a DOT Secretary since he was appointed to lead DOT-Region 5 August of 2021.
“During our first meeting at the Central Office, I wanted to clap my hands when you said that you are a listening secretary–because that’s what we need right now. It’s really a good thing that whatever the dilemma is on the ground, it can be addressed right away,” enthused Director Aguas.
Meeting with Stakeholders from Luzon
In a separate event, the DOT chief also met with representatives of the following associations and organizations: Subic-Clark Alliance for Development (SCAD); Luzon International Premier Airport Development (LIPAD) Corporation; Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP); Clark Development Corporation (CDC); Pampanga Agents Travel Society (PATS); Hotels and Restaurants Association in Pampanga (HARP); Central Luzon Farm Tourism Association; Accredited Guides Association of Pampanga (AGAP); and Pampanga Bike Adventure Tour.
Each of the participants were enjoined to voice out their concerns and suggestions for their respective sectors, which revolve around request for additional government support and increased inclusivity in terms of promotions, trainings, and harmonisation of accreditation standards for the industry.
The DOT chief has given her directive to the Regional Offices to coordinate with the associations, and to ensure that measures and appropriate timelines will be deviced to provide the needed support of the stakeholders.
Among the immediate directives of the Secretary included the easier renewal process for DOT accreditation. Knowing first hand the difficulties of tourism stakeholders to submit the documentary requirements for the renewal of DOT accreditation amid the pandemic, she instructed for the Regional Offices to: waive the immediate submission of certain documentary requirements, provided that they sign an Sworn Statement of Undertaking that they agree to submit the lacking documents at a later time; and to shoulder the cost of the notarization of this undertaking.
Additionally, she also expressed the DOT’s plans to replicate the successful model of Cebu Travel Fair in destinations like Pampanga, to further promote accommodations and restaurants, noting the appeal of the HARP to help address the negative impressions that guests may have upon establishments that previously served as quarantine facilities.
LIPAD Corporation representative Noel Manangkil welcomed the listening tours, noting that “their organization is grateful l because, now, the plans are grounded on the operational implementing level. There is a sense of participation in the strategies that will be crafted by the national (government).”
Meanwhile, Danilo Cerdena of PATS commented that they are “relieved that the Secretary heard our sentiments. She is very focused; she addressed the issues and concerns of the stakeholders and we are very grateful,” he added.
“Having heard her today, I know we are in good hands,” remarked Matt De Castro of HARP.
To cap her back-to-back meetings with DOT Regional Directors and tourism stakeholders in Luzon, Secretary Frasco also conducted an inspection of the Clark International Airport (CRK).