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Published: Friday December 13, 2013 MYT 11:18:00 AM
Updated: Friday December 13, 2013 MYT 11:29:08 AM

Philippines still a tourist haven

PETALING JAYA: In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, government representatives have assured tourists the Philippines is still a safe and fun destination.

“Top destinations in the Visayas, including the world-famous Boracay island, were largely unaffected by the typhoon,” said Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia J. Eduardo Malaya.

Malaya adds that visiting the Philippines is the most effective way for foreigners to help boost their economy.

“Tourism is one of the major contributors to the Philippine economy, and is one of the more effective ways for foreigners to assist in the recovery and rehabilitations of affected areas is for foreign tourists to continue to visit the Philippines.

“It is our hope that this tour can help in such an endeavor,” said Malaya, in reference to the first “Ambassador’s Tour to the Philippines” where a total of 112 participants from Malaysia toured Manila last month.

“For Malaysians, the Philippines is like an unexplored tourist destination which is right next door,” said Malaya.

“Although it’s not as well known to Malaysians than say Bangkok or Bali, we have many exciting tourist destinations here,” he added.

Assistant Secretary to the Department of Tourism Philippines Benito C. Bengzon Jr. said that although Malaysia is a close neighbour of the Philippines, many have an outdated perception of the country.

“You will see that what they have in mind is very much different from what the actual situation is,” said Bengzon, adding that most tourists have a very different experience of the Philippines in comparison to what they hear or read in the newspapers.

“We recognize that impressing upon our visitors a very stable and secure image of the Philippines is very important. This is why we have intensified our marketing and promotion campaign around the world,” he said.

Bengzon says that the message they want to send across is a simple one: “We would like to position the Philippines as a fun destination and part of the world.”

Bengzon said that the government has taken significant efforts to make Philippines a safe place for tourists.

“Two years ago we developed a program called Tourist Oriented Police for Community Order and Protection (TOP-COP) where the main objective is to train police who will be deployed in the major tourist destinations,” said Bengzon.
Benito C. Bengzon Jr.

The program has since trained and graduated about 2,000 policemen who are now deployed at almost 20 major tourist destinations around the Philippines.

“We’re very happy that the feedback has been very encouraging so far and the situation has stabilized.

“The people strongly believe that the Philippines is a safe, secure, attractive and fun destination,” said Bengzon.

“I think the best proof of that is when you look at the growth rate of arrivals to the Philippines of about 11 to 12 percent,” he added.

It was reported that in 2012, a total of 114,513 Malaysians visited the Philippines, an increase of 24.81 percent from 2011.

It is also the first time Malaysian tourists has breached the 100,000 mark, making Malaysia its 10th largest tourist market.

Meanwhile, Tourism Malaysia reported that 508,744 Filipinos visited Malaysia in 2012, representing a 40.5 percent growth from the previous year. Philippines is the 70th largest tourist market for Malaysia.