Lawmakers eyeing potential of farm tourism in the Philippines
Just before it went on a holiday break this December, the Senate approved on third and final reading the measure that would develop and promote farm tourism in the country.
Senators believe Senate Bill No. 3002, or the Farm Tourism Development Act of 2015 which primarily seeks to alleviate poverty and spur development in rural areas through farm tourism, would also solve the underlying problem of mass migration to urban centers.
Sen. Cynthia Villar, Senate committee on agriculture and food chairperson and sponsor of the bill, noted that half of the country’s population lives in rural areas where poverty is widespread and pronounced.
Farm tourism, she said, would contribute to rural development since agriculture is the primary and often only source of income for poor rural people, “many of whom depend on subsistence farming and fishing for their livelihoods.”
For the most part, SBN 3002 recommends the formulation a farm tourism strategic action plan which will be incorporated into the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP). NTDP is the mother plan for tourism development in the Philippines, as mandated under the Tourism Act of 2009 (Republic Act No. 9593).
The plan will provide specific programs and activities to be implemented by government agencies and industry stakeholders.
The measure also proposes the creation of the Farm Tourism Development Board to be headed by the Department of Tourism secretary with the Agriculture Secretary as vice-chairman. The board will be in charge of implementing the farm tourism strategic action plan.
The bill, however, has yet to go through the bicameral conference committee so lawmakers both from the Senate and House can fine-tune provisions of SBN 3002.
Villar said she is optimistic the Philippines has the potential to take a strong lead in farm tourism in the Asian region and even globally.
“All we need is an enabling environment, including a clear legislation and a proper tax and incentives system. A sustainable tourism is an opportunity for business development and job creation, as well as for stimulation of investment and support for local services,” she said.
Senate President Franklin M. Drilon added that once passed into law, the bill will help the country maximize the benefits from both the tourism sector, which represents 7.8 percent of the country’s total gross domestic product (GDP) last year, and the agricultural sector, which grew by 4.8 percent in the last quarter of 2014.
“The development of farm tourism can serve as the catalyst for the economic development of our local agriculture and fishing communities, and help provide additional income for our farmers, farm workers and fisherfolk,” Drilon said.