Paolo Abellanosa | Opinion
In July last year, then DoT Secretary Alberto Lim told a Salimbay correspondent that the most awaited National Tourism Development Plan 2011-2016 would be released shortly after the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA). Half a year has gone and we still don’t see any hint that it’s going to be.
The politicking in the tourism administration has delayed two major kick-off projects crucial in tourism development: the promotional campaign and the master plan. As Filipinos seem to be more concerned on tourism branding than the blueprint – which we understand with the sensationalized failure of Lim’s Pilipinas, Kay Ganda – it has been DoT’s primary priority to promote first before finalizing the framework from where Philippine tourism development of the Aquino government would be modeled after.
We are yet to hear from DoT on its real plan on the NTDP schedule or what’s actually delaying the matter. In September, during Jimenez’s first press conference, he noted that some provisions on Lim’s plan would need “tightening and refocusing”. He didn’t specify what area in the plan would require such changes.
DoT claimed it chose the bid of Indra Philippines, Inc. in joint venture with the Asia Pacific Projects, Inc. (APPI) because of “impeccable credentials and successful track records” of fielded consultants. According to a July 23 Manila Bulletin article, Indra Philippines has a business line with a firm specializing in marketing and tourism standards and accreditation. Meanwhile, APPI, one of its founders former Tourism Secretary Narzalina Lim, is well-experienced in planning international destinations including Mekong countries.
Jimenez has been providing mites of the NTDP’s content since the early months of his administration. Clues such as public-private partnership, priority on accessibility, tourism road networks, and specific tourist destinations for development including Puerto Princesa are in news articles that appear in Google searches. Beyond this, the ordinary tourism enthusiast would not be provided of any further details that would create a brighter picture except for the assumption that the NTDP would focus on accessibility alone.
Quoting DoT Regional Director Purificacion Molintas, the Philippine Information Agency noted, “…the goal…is to develop an environmentally and socially responsible tourism industry that delivers more widely distributed income and employment opportunities targeting 6.62 million international arrivals and 34.78 million domestic travellers by 2016, contributing 6.78% to Gross Domestic Product and directly employing 6.6 million people.”
How does DoT plan to attain this? Infrastructural development should not be the only concern of the NTDP. Other matters from security to accreditation and standards should also be present. In general, what we students expect the plan to be, or at least to have, is a specific design that will operationalize the political promise of coordination. It should be a blueprint that will identify how the different government agencies and units, not the private sector alone, shall assist the tourism administration in its course.
The half-year delay in the NTDP’s release stirs in more doubts, but we can always be wrong on this. Unlike the stiff political climate during Lim’s time (specifically with the private sector’s Tourism Congress), Jimenez is getting the firm support of major organizations like the Tourism Congress and the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA). Moreover, and setting aside the frustration on why promotions first, the tourism experts know how another delayed project, the slogan, Jimenez’s idea battered by the public, could turn out to be, quoting an AIT professor, “Joke’s on you, man.”
We may argue that an ingenious promotional idea does not refer to the likelihood of a grand plan of the same nature. Of course it wouldn’t, but it also doesn’t mean we should not attempt to hope that it can be so. The many years wasted to develop tourism pushes the better of us to hope and even expect on this administration, edging us to wait a little bit more.