Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

4 Feb, 2014

Exclusive: How the Philippines peace pact will boost tourism, and vice versa

by Danny Corpuz

Editor’s Note: Last week, after the signing of the peace agreement between the Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, I asked Department of Tourism Undersecretary Daniel Corpuz to comment on the implications for tourism and the global peace movement. He sent me the following response:

The signing of the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF held in Kuala Lumpur in January is a welcome development in the much awaited creation of the new Muslim autonomous entity called the Bangsamoro under a law to be approved by the Philippine Congress.


Peace comes at last in Mindanao

Annex on Normalization signing is President Aquino’s defining moment

Government, MILF move one big step closer toward peace with Annex on Normalization signing

Have an open mind, Palace urges critics on peace efforts with MILF

It is imperative that great attention be given to the cultural dimension of discrimination and violence between and among Moro, Lumad and Christian alike. It should be realized that the country’s pluralistic society of (80) eighty ethno-linguistic groups, (80) eighty major languages and (500) five hundred dialects, not only makes greater cross-religion and cross-cultural exchanges possible, but likewise affords endless possibilities of showcasing why “It is More Fun in the Philippines.” The creation of the Bangsamoro aptly “symbolizes and honors the struggles of our forebears in Mindanao, and celebrates the history and character of that part of our nation” said President Aquino in his October 7 speech announcing the signing of the draft GPH-MILF Framework Agreement.

The Bangsamoro, just like the Lumads and Christians, are all Filipinos; it is an identity.

The Department of Tourism believes that everyone has a stake in advancing peace in the country. In pursuit of a culture of tourism, the agency continues to engage society in promoting positive values, protecting the nation’s environmental, historical and cultural heritage and inculcating pride in being Filipino.

One way of easing tension in Mindanao is to give importance to the region as one of the top nine cluster destinations where priority action should be given to designing and implementing product development programs. This is contained in the National Tourism Development Plan. This initiative is based on the belief that cultural dialogue, through tourism, has a key role to play in the peacemaking process. The parties would see the value of compromising to a peaceful co-existence—as peace is key to tourism success. The Bangsamoro precisely reflects the plurality and diversity of the communities in the region.

Under its law, the Bangsamoro shall have the powers to create its own sources of revenues, as well as to have an equal share in the revenues derived from its natural resources. Furthermore, the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement’s Annex on Power-Sharing, the Bangsamoro Government shall have “exclusive powers” that it exercises within its territorial jurisdiction over, among others, TOURISM (7).

With the signing of the Bangsamoro framework, the Philippines can anticipate a more eloquent socio-economic cooperation with the Muslim countries in the region particularly between the East ASEAN Growth Area (EAGA) that comprises Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Mindanao’s rich natural bounties, diverse cultures and strategic location in the region can look forward to collaboration in developing madrasah or public education, halal industry, tourism, Islamic banking and people-to-people exchanges, among other initiatives.

In a study conducted by Ludwig Reider for the PCID Asia Pacific Projects, the creation of the Bangsamoro yields opportunities to develop markets seeking to trade and business opportunities, markets seeking to visit their friends and relatives in the area, and markets interested in attending special events in the area, in addition to the traditional leisure markets.

The Philippine tourism industry holds so much potential. As a country with unrivalled natural bounties, rich colonial heritage, eight UNESCO-declared heritage sites, and diverse cultures, having the Bangsamoro recipe for peace should work well to further advance tourism in Southern Philippines.

Tourism benefits from peace, safety and security. The current branding campaign is dependent on the Filipinos coming together to deliver on a promise for a more heartfelt and interesting Philippine tourism experience. It is the Filipinos that would complete one’s vacation and be the main reason for the visit.

The DOT’s stands firm in its campaign for a paradigm shift that will look deeply into and give great import to tourism as a economic, political and social vehicle to improve people’s lives. That tourism, unlike other industries, has the power to bring about all inclusive growth. With its multiplier effect, we can create more jobs, open more business opportunities and spread its benefits to the grassroots and countryside.