LONDON, United Kingdom – Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco on Saturday, November 4 engaged in a productive dialogue with some 60 representatives of the Filipino community during the Kapihan sa Pasuguan.
Jointly organized by the Philippine Embassy in London and the Philippines Department of Tourism (PDOT)-London, the Filcom members’ dialogue with Secretary Frasco comes along the sidelines of the World Travel Market (WTM) London, where the Tourism Secretary will lead the contingent of Philippine tourism players.
The attendees, which come from different Filcom organizations, associations, and sectors including the academe, healthcare, MICE, real estate, travel, and tours, among others, were given an opportunity to share their travel and tourism-related insights with Secretary Frasco.
The most common topics that were derived from the discussions are the Filcom members’ appeals for the resumption of direct flights between Manila and London, ensuring the sustainability and security in Philippine destinations, and the need to address existing issues and impending threats to tourists such as the following: difficulties in complying with entry requirements; need for clean restrooms; scams; and data privacy concerns.
As Secretary Frasco thanked the Filcom members for all of their inputs during the forum and their contributions to maintaining the strong presence of the Philippines in London and the United Kingdom, she likewise assured the DOT’s consideration of their suggestions in its upcoming plans and programs.
In terms of the attendees’ appeal for the resumption of direct flights between Manila and London, Tourism Secretary shared updates on the DOT’s ongoing efforts to coordinate with airlines including Philippine Airlines (PAL) and advocate for the same.
“What I can assure you is that the effort will continue,” said Secretary Frasco, noting some of the positive outcomes of the DOT’s engagement with PAL, including the airline’s mounting of flights from Bangkok to Cebu, and Baguio to Cebu starting December.
To address the concerns over the growing number of reports of scams against tourists, Secretary Frasco gave the Filipino Community in London an overview of the Tourist Assistance Call Center that the DOT will soon launch in order to address the concerns of tourists while they are traveling around the Philippines.
“We take these things very seriously. And that is why we will fully engage as well with the Department of Justice as far as ensuring the full prosecution to the fullest extent of the law of these individuals and groups that engage in scams against tourists, whether they are Filipinos or foreigners,” the Tourism Secretary assured.
Cognizant of travelers’ difficulties in accessing and accomplishing the One Health Pass (OHP), Secretary Frasco also apprised the attendees of the Philippine government’s introduction of the simpler and more convenient eARRIVAL card to replace the OHP.
The new platform, Secretary Frasco noted, is a product of the DOT’s proactive efforts to converge with relevant national government agencies in order to increase convenience of traveling into the Philippines and convey the country’s openness to tourists and investments.
“The obtainment of the eARRIVAL pass is no longer a prerequisite as it was with the One Health Pass before you board. We anticipate that this will provide great convenience to our tourists,” Secretary Frasco said.
The DOT chief likewise provided updates on the Executive Orders signed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. which make mask-wearing optional for indoor and outdoor settings and removes the RT-PCR pre-departure requirement for fully vaccinated inbound Filipino and foreign travelers.
On the aspect of maintaining tourist security, the Tourism Secretary shared the DOT’s commitment to continue and expand the Tourist Oriented Police for Community Order and Protection (TOPCOP) program together with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of National Defense (DND).
“The primary effort of the government is to build confidence in our country. And that confidence is being built with firm foundations on ensuring programs that will convey a certain level of security for tourists that come into the Philippines,” the Tourism Secretary explained.
To further facilitate seamless entry of travelers into their end destination in the Philippines, Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco disclosed that the DOT is also coordinating with the DILG to explore the removal of any entry restrictions individually imposed by local government units (LGUs) in the Philippines.
“We’re currently working with the Department of Interior and Local Government for purposes of ensuring that any and all restrictions individually implemented by local government units nationwide are lifted so that we have a national policy as far as the entry of tourists is concerned. The national policy being, to welcome our friends and family back into the Philippines,” Secretary Frasco said.
“The effort to build confidence in the Philippines continues. We do this by conveying everything that is good and well about the Philippines. The warmth of the Filipino people, the talents of those who work within and outside of the Philippines, the products that we have to offer as well as the beauty of our destinations. It is a continuing effort. And there are measures that we are taking to ensure that both our citizens and our tourists feel that government is there to improve the present state of the Philippines,” added the Tourism Chief.