One recent morning when our respective schedules matched, we, the Board of Trustees of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Philippines Chapter, decided to pay a courtesy call on Pocholo Paragas, the chief operating officer and general manager of Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA). It turned out to be a very interesting free-wheeling discussion on the development, promotion, and supervision of the tourism projects in our country.
It is always such a delight to chat with young, intelligent and committed officers who are at the forefront of our tourism industry. Those of us in the industry feel energized with the dynamism of these leaders and feel excited that all these could only point to a bright future we can look forward to.
TIEZA was created by Republic Act 9593 or the Tourism Act of 2009. Its four-pronged responsibilities are—the building of tourism infrastructure, the operation and management of our tourism assets, the designation, regulation, and supervision of Tourism Enterprise Zones, and the collection of travel taxes.
This Tourism agency develops areas in the country with high cultural, historical, religious, heritage, or eco-tourism values, thereby shaping a deep sense of awareness and pride for our natural bounties and our uniqueness as a race. In some parts of the country, it restores and rehabilitates historical landmarks, and builds facilities in accordance with the Department of Tourism’s National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP).
In some areas, TIEZA runs facilities that offer accommodations, or food and beverage, or specialized sports such as golf and scuba diving. In some provinces, the agency has partnered with the private sector and with local governments units, to empower them and their communities in running the localities’ assets.
Once an area is developed as a Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zone, the DoT and TIEZA invite for partnership private entities which eventually enjoy fiscal and non-fiscal incentives. There are also instances when these private stakeholders discover the tourism potential of a certain area and initiate the request for partnership with TIEZA. Either way, such joint investments create employment and spark economic activities in those communities.
Presidential Decree 1183 has allowed the imposition of Travel Tax on any individual leaving the country, regardless of where the ticket was issued. The amount collected is shared by three government bodies—50 percent goes to TIEZA, 40 percent goes to the Commission on Higher Education, and the remaining 10 percent goes to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. TIEZA uses its share for its priority tourism projects and activities, as laid out in the DoT’s NTDP.
Our more-than-an-hour-long chat with COO Paragas was an engrossing exchange of information and ideas, so encouraging because his dynamism was very infectious that we, PATA Board of Trustees, left his office with the resolve to do even more as our share, towards ensuring the continued success of our industry.
It’s just quite sad to note that, when asked I asked him about it, COO Paragas clarified that, yes, his tenure is co-terminus with that of our President, who officially appointed him to the position. It would really be a pity to see this “low-profile dynamo” leave our industry, but such is the texture of life.
While they are around, we just have to make the most of these effective and energized tourism leaders—Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Tourism Promotions Board COO Marie Venus Tan, and TIEZA COO Pocholo Paragas—who are currently at the forefront of making it “more fun in the Philippines” not only for our visitors, but also for those of us who have been long-time stakeholders in our country’s tourism industry.
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YOUR weekend CHUCKLE
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