Palace assures safety of foreigners in Philippines-A A +A
Saturday, March 9, 2013
MANILA -- Malacanang assured Saturday the safety of foreign nationals visiting the Philippines amid the travel warning that Australia issued to its citizens.
In an interview over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Aquino administration understands the need for other governments to issue advisory to their nationals.
"But here at home, we do take the measures that are necessary to protect not just our own citizens but the tourists who come in," she said.
Australia issued the travel warning amid the hostilities in Lahad Datu involving the Malaysian forces and the followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III over the latter's claim over Sabah.
Australia advises its citizens not to travel to central and western Mindanao, including the Zamboanga Peninsula and Sulu Archipelago, due to the very high threat of terrorist attack, kidnapping, violent crime and violent clashes between armed groups.
But despite Australia's warning, Valte said the Aquino administration expects tourist arrivals to surge with the recent development in the country's aviation and tourism sectors.
She said the signing of the law exempting foreign air and shipping carriers from paying the common carriers tax would be a boost to the country's tourism industry.
This is in addition to the travel and tourism competiveness report of the World Economic Forum ranking the Philippines from 92 to 94 and then to 82, Valte said.
The International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) validating mission also lifted significant safety concerns in the Philippine commercial aviation industry.
Explaining the government's position on the tax exemptions of international carriers from paying the common carriers tax, Valte said the government earns less than one percent of the nation's budget from the revenues collected from this tax.
"But on the other hand, because you have given the international carriers exemption, then when we forego that particular portion of revenue, which is less than one percent of the budget anyway, it will have a multiplier effect; because they will be encouraged to fly here so that means more flights, it means more tourists will be coming in," she said.
More tourists arriving the country is a way of creating jobs for Filipinos, she added.
Following ICAO's positive assessment on the Philippine aviation industry, Valte said the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has been continuously working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Union to remove the country from the blacklist.
If the CAAP succeeded in delisting the country from Category 2 status, Philippine carriers could start direct flights to the United States and European destinations, she said.
To prepare the country for the influx of more tourists, the Department of Transportation and Communication continues to rehabilitate old airports or construct new airports, Valte said.
The Aquino administration targets to achieve 10 million tourist arrivals by 2016. Last year, there were 4.2 million foreign tourists who visited the country. (SDR/Sunnex)