The Philippines joins UNWTO General Assembly as Vice President for East Asia and the Pacific; prestigious global position held again after 24 years

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SAMARKAND, Uzbekistan– It was a historic day for The Philippines as it shared the global stage with tourism powerhouses at the 25th United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) General Assembly on October 18, 2023 (Wednesday) as Vice President for East Asia and the Pacific.

Represented by Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco, the Philippines was recently elected Vice President for East Asia and the Pacific of the UNWTO General Assembly, a prestigious global position last held by the country more than two decades ago.

She also proudly led the Philippine delegation to the picturesque Samarkand Congress Center in Uzbekistan, where scores of global tourism leaders and influencers from some 150 countries around the world gathered for the much-awaited general assembly of what is one, if not the most prominent tourism organization in the world.

The UNWTO, of which The Philippines is a full member, is a specialized agency of the United Nations that promotes responsible, sustainable, and universally accessible tourism.

A Prominent Position

In a voting ceremony held recently in Cambodia, Secretary Frasco, as representative of the Philippines, took one of the seven coveted seats in the executive committee of this year’s UNWTO General Assembly, to occupy a spot in the panel of 15 that included UNWTO Secretary General, His Excellency Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary of the Assembly and UNWTO Director for Communications Mr. Marcelo Risi, and UNWTO Legal Counsel Alicia Gomez.

Uzbekistan presided the General Assembly as elected president, and was assisted by the Commission Vice Chairs: Algeria and the United Republic of Tanzania for Africa, Argentina and Paraguay for the Americas, the Philippines for East Asia and the Pacific, Hungary for Europe, United Arab Emirates for the Middle East, and Maldives for South Asia, in the assembly that explored opportunities for shaping new policies, effective instruments, and global partnerships to support inclusive and sustainable tourism development.

Measuring Sustainable Tourism

In her intervention on the agenda about current trends of International Tourism, Frasco commended the initiatives in the development of the statistical framework for measuring the sustainability of tourism, highlighting that UNWTO has chosen the Philippines as one of the countries for its pilot implementation.

“By law, sustainable tourism development forms an integral part of national policy as a tool for socioeconomic development. By practice, our national tourism development plan fosters a tourism industry that is sustainable, resilient, and globally competitive, recognizing the necessity of balancing conservation as well as development as a transformative tool for tourism,” said Frasco.

“As a concrete manifestation of our support to the UNWTO’s sustainable tourism initiatives, the Philippines, as one of the members of the Committee on Statistics representing the Commission for East Asia and the Pacific, respectfully recommends that the UNWTO General Assembly endorse the Statistical Framework for Measuring the Sustainability of Tourism (MST), establishing a global consensus among the community of nations. This shall establish a common ground among our nations to measure data on the economic, environmental, and social dimensions of tourism. We rally behind the UNWTO in strongly recommending the adoption by the General Assembly of this Statistical Framework on Measuring Sustainable Tourism,” the tourism chief added.

To recall, the Philippines hosted the UNWTO International Tourism Forum in Cebu, and the 6th International Conference on Tourism Statistics in Manila in June 2017, a gathering of global leaders from over 88 countries that resulted in the “Manila Call for Action on Measuring Sustainable Tourism.”

Maximizing the opportunity, Frasco pitched to the world tourism arena what awaits guests when they come to visit the Philippines, as she likewise pointed out the imperative need to pursue a sustainability tourism framework.

“Diversity is woven into the very fabric of the Filipino identity. We are a confluence of languages, ethnolinguistic groups, and communities that meet in harmony providing an equally profound Philippine experience,” said the tourism chief.

“Megabiodiversity is also another dimension unique to the Philippines. Our 7,641 islands being home to 2/3 of the Earth’s biodiversity, with 70 to 80% of the world’s plant and animal species found in our islands. In view of the natural bounty and ecological vulnerability of our islands, the Philippines recognizes the primordial importance of adopting a sustainability framework in tourism recovery and development,” Frasco added.

As Vice President of the General Assembly, Frasco, representing the Philippines, also led the presentation of the report of the executive council to the General Assembly.

Regional UNWTO Meeting to be held in Cebu in 2024

In June of 2024, the Philippines is set to host the Joint Regional Meetings of the Committee for East Asia and the Pacific and South Asia in Cebu.

Joining Secretary Frasco in representing the Philippines at the 25th UNWTO General Assembly were Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Iran His Excellency (H.E.) Roberto G. Manalo, and DOT officials Undersecretary Shahlimar Hofer Tamano, OIC-Undersecretary Verna Buensuceso, and Assistant Secretary Rica Bueno.

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