Siargao post-typhoon rehab going 'painfully slow', says ex-solon

AP Party-list has called the attention of the Department of Tourism (DOT) on what it has described as the "painfully slow" rehabilitation of Siargao.

Siargao (Dale de Vera/ Unsplash)

A popular tourist destination, Siargao--often mentioned in the same breath as Boracay--was ravaged by typhoon "Odette" late last year.

Ronnie Ong, AP Party-list 1st nominee, said that funds for the reconstruction of the tourism infrastructure in this island paradise should be a DOT priority because Siargao has been always been one of the country’s top tourist destinations.

He also urged DOT Secretary Berna Romulo to give Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) Chief Operating Office Mark Lapid all the support he needs to ensure that the agency can expedite the implementation of all programs for the rehabilitation of Siargao.

“Since TIEZA is still in the recovery phase because of the pandemic, I think that the DOT should step up the plate in expediting the recovery efforts in Siargao because this island province only depends on tourism," said Ong, a former congressman in the current 18th Congress.

TIEZA is a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) attached to the DOT. It was created through Republic Act (RA) No. 9593, otherwise known as the Tourism Act of 2009. Its primary mandate is to implement policies and programs of the DOT pertaining to the development, promotion, and supervision of tourism projects in the Philippines.

TIEZA’s main tasks include building tourism infrastructure, designation, regulation and supervision of Tourism Enterprise Zones (TEZs), operation and management of TIEZA assets, and the collection of the Philippine Travel Tax.

The travel tax is a levy imposed by the Philippine government on individuals who are leaving the country irrespective of the place where the air ticket is issued and the form or place of payment.

Ong said that 50 percent of travel taxes collected are allotted for TIEZA while 40 percent goes to the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) for tourism-related educational programs and courses. The remaining 10 percent shall accrue to the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA).

However, because of the pandemic, the government barely collected enough travel tax to sustain the mandate of TIEZA.

"DOT should immediately restore all the tourism-related infrastructures that were destroyed by typhoon Odette so that Siargao and its people can immediately recover,” Ong stressed.