P7.8M in 2019 national budget to be used in tourism safety

MANILA, Philippines – Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat on Wednesday, August 8, said 30% of her department's training budget of P26 million – or P7.8 million – can go to ramping up safety measures in tourist sites.

"In the 2019 budget, we have allocated P26 million. That's for training. Thirty percent can be focused on safety and security," Puyat said during the congressional hearing on the Department of Tourism's proposed P3.39 billion budget.

This was in response to the question of Muntinlupa City Representative Ruffy Biazon, who raised safety issues in tourism sites in the country.

Puyat said they are in talks with the Tourism Infrastruction and Enterprise Zone Authority to install hyperbaric oxygen chambers in diving sites as a temporary base underwater.

She said they are also coordinating with the Department of Health (DOH) about assigning health facilities in tourist spots when an emergency happens.

"We also talked to the DOH for health facilities and a proper person to be able to operate a health facility and a properly-trained person to take care [of the patient] when an emergency occurs," she said.

She also gave assurances they are in touch with their regional directors to put up preventive measures and emergency response advisories for tourist destinations.

"We're also in close coordination with the LGUs (local government units) for proper signs. That's what was lacking in Caramoan with the poisonous jellyfish," she said.

"We also want a more active community involvement, which we will be doing," she added.

Biazon suggested that tourism workers be trained with first aid skills that match the outdoor activities they offer.

On July 26, 7-year-old Gaia Trimarchi died after she was stung by a box jellyfish while swimming off the waters in Sabitang Laya Island, one of the stops of a Caramoan island hopping tour.

The DOT has vowed to address safety concerns especially in leading tourism sites to create a "safe and secure environment for [foreign] visitors." – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.