When tourists are aware they are safe and sound

By Anthony A. Araos

“ Inevitably, the future of TOPCOP at work is the very future of the tourism industry in Mayoyao and elsewhere in the Philippines. ”

As the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the national government officials seek new ways to draw more foreign tourists to the Philippines, it is important to reflect on initiatives of protecting them while they are enjoying the sights of the country’s various destinations.
Among the initiatives is the deployment of tourist policemen in the Philippines. The DOT and the Philippine National Police (PNP) forged a partnership on the training program intended to prepare and transform PNP personnel into tourist-friendly policemen nationwide.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat and PNP Chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde reinforced the idea and began several key moves to promote the tie-up.
As the DOT continues to find ways to protect tourists- local and foreign alike, these efforts serve as an important reminder of the government’s agenda of upgrading the tourism industry.
There’s hardly a town in the Philippines that the PNP is not serving. Foreign visitors are being attracted by most of the nation’s 1,490 towns. I suppose that’s exactly the reason why Tourism Secretary Puyat took the initiative.
Offenses against foreigners have not stopped. Violations of the law need to be checked by the men and women in uniform. Whether the crime committed is petty or not, the tourist cops should be there to safeguard the well-being of tourists.
Theft or some loss of money or valuables as a result of operations of a syndicate or misguided individuals are significant threats to foreign visitors.
Thousands of European tourists continue to visit Banaue in recent times. Hundreds are also going to the nearby scenic town of Mayoyao. The lack of world-class hotels, inns and lodges has been a big problem. Security concerns are just as hard to ignore, too. Thus, the views and recommendations of those in the private sector are certainly important to consider. For instance, I see the importance of putting up light posts in most places in Ifugao. Tourists are avoiding dimly-lighted areas for obvious reasons.
Officials in Banaue and Mayoyao should learn a lot how the tourist police system works so well in Subic town and Olongapo City, both in Zambales province. How the system worked in these places is not complicated and the TOPCOP’s success in a number of urban areas has drawn attention.
What is amazing is how little effort it takes to make an impact on this innovative program through a memorandum of agreement for the implementation of the Tourism-Oriented Police for Community Order and Protection program (TOPCOP) throughout the Philippines, which will be operational in the country’s 17 regions.
To my mind, the MOA, in particular, and the partnership, in general, surely manifest a deepening cooperation between the DOT and the PNP.
This cooperation is important in the face of the economic landscape nearly influenced by the huge contribution of foreign currencies- most especially the dollars, in the tourism industry.
Reflecting on the significance of this development today, I’m therefore inclined to ask, Could it be that the TOPCOP scheme, is the surest path or the most profound way not just to protect tourists from lawless elements, but also to bolster cooperation between the DOT and the PNP.
Yet there is more to the story than the PNP’s men and women extending helping hands to domestic and international travelers in the country.
The program’s implementation in Mayoyao (or let’s say Lamut or Asipulo) is important in generating more revenues for this town as tourists feel that they are safe and sound during their stay in this upland town. Tourists and even investors are likely to avoid a municipality where peace and order is a problem.
Inevitably, the future of TOPCOP at work is the very future of the tourism industry in Mayoyao and elsewhere in the Philippines.
Imagine what the people of Mayoyao are going to significantly gain through this DOT-PNP partnership in the coming months or years. I love to see the smiles of the faces of European as well as North and South American tourists when they see the panoramic views of the town’s famed rice terraces. I love telling foreign tourists to visit Mayoyao. Now, I’ll also tell them something about the tourist cops. I love doing it, and I won’t stop. It’s giving back for all the things I’ve been blessed to learn a lot from my esteemed friends out there such as Mayor Jimmy Padchanan Jr., former Mayor Ronie Lumayna and former Board Member Samson Atluna. Likewise, the list is surely incomplete if I’ll make no mention of Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao. Over the years, Congressman Chungalao is a nationalist, principled and tried and tested leader. He can stand straight on the side of the people. Very, very straight!
By assisting Mayoyao’s tourist cops, Mayor Padchanan is ensuring that tourists are far from harm’s way. In the long run, Mayor Padchanan should also seek the assistance of barangay council officials to assist the program. Particularly, in augmenting PNP personnel in night operations through the “ronda” patrol system involving barangay tanods (village watchmen).
Meanwhile, Mayoyao municipal government officials must understand that well-trained and highly-equipped tourist cops shall give them a competitive advantage.
Today, the Mayoyao municipal government may opt to fast track the TOPCOP. This is not only a model for the quick implementation of the government’s major tourism programs. It is also a model for effective governance in the global age. It takes away the myth of being isolated. All countries are interconnected in the global order. In a borderless set-up, the Philippines’ neighbors are not just Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore or Vietnam. Even Ivory Coast, Israel, Portugal, Ecuador and New Zealand are the country’s neighbors. In short, foreign tourists are our neighbors.
Safety of tourists each second of their stay in the country is the duty of the tourist cops.
Soon, I love to see these tourist cops securing destinations situated at Mayoyao’s mountain range enveloped by chilly highland air and fog. It is a great and reassuring feeling!
On Sept. 2 (a Tuesday and a holiday in Ifugao), a friend of mine from Lamut attended the annual Victory Day celebration program in Kiangan. She asked not to be identified. The next day or Sept. 3 (a special working holiday nationwide), she also watched the Victory Day program in Baguio City.
She spoke of two Victory Day occasions for the same reason. It marked the surrender of the late General Tomoyuki Yamashita, head of the dreaded Japanese Imperial Army in the Philippines at the closing of the World War II hostilities at the Pacific arena. On Sept. 2, Yamashita surrendered in Kiangan. On Sept. 3, Yamashita surrendered in Baguio. Say what and twice he gave up.
What does being a history buff like her saying these things mean for me? I have become confused, just like many others. Sometimes I do things to help others get a better understanding of Philippine history, but most often I just rely on some stock knowledge from time to time.
I tell. I recall. I assert.
Asserting the correct date of Yamashita’s surrender can be just as confusing as sending forth the right perspective of history.
It is time to unlock the controversy of the claims of two places on the surrender of Yamashita, a war criminal who was hanged in Los Banos, Laguna. Whom do you listen to? Someone please tell Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao to jump into the discussion and enlighten the public.
Filipinos gave good reasons to feel confused and weary from this controversy and revisionism of history and many of them are waiting for the final say about the exact date to really mark the so-called Victory Day.
Given the continuing debate on this matter, it is unclear at this point, which one has the inside track of history’s verdict of the date to be recognized. Or how sure are you it was really Yamashita who really surrendered in Kiangan? Was it a look-alike of Yamashita who surrendered in Baguio? What is clear, however, is this: The controversy shall be settled by an independent body not linked to the powers-that-be in Kiangan and Baguio. Basically, it is similar to the confusion on the July 4 and June 12 Philippine Independence Day. Who is right on this matter? The debate has once again just begun!
Did you know? Japanese placemats out of bamboo materials are among the best in the world. There are countless bamboo trees in Ifugao. Folks out here simply don’t care about these trees. In a poverty-stricken province as Ifugao, people should be enlightened on the merits on the bamboo craft industry amid their mounting unemployment problem.
For our food delights corner: It is still the rainy season and it is time to bring out the best of deep-fried tuna with breadcrumbs for lunch. Be on the lookout for Saranggani province-sourced fresh tuna. It is perfect for a delicious meal for your loved ones. In southern Philippines, dahlings are household favorites when it comes to tuna-based food treats. The abovementioned meal is really great with steamed rice and sinigang na hipon (shrimp). For appetizers and dessert: Macapuno-flavored cassava cake, bananas and potato salad. Be grateful for the food and everything else from the Creator above. This wonderful thing at home that fills our hearts and lives today is quite visible. Meal time is always a celebration in life.
Unlimited odd thoughts unloaded: A moneyed politician promised PhP2,000 each to 200 flying voters in his town during the elections. He won by 200 votes over his opponent. Then a day after the polls, his son floored him by asking, “Where are you going to treat your flying voters for your “success”? The enterprising politician replied: “I have no idea because all I have are lots of money. I welcome your suggestion.” He answered: “Buy four flying saucers!
Of course, you’re off course: The Sept. 2 Victory Day program in Kiangan listed the following: Senator Bong Go for a Message. Its guest speaker was a retired general. With due respect, a senator has a higher ranking than anyone in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Remember, Kiangan is not under martial law. In other words, civilian rule reigns over the military in normal times. Senator Go should have been listed and invited as Keynote Speaker. Knowledge of basic political science lessons is vital. This is what local government units in Ifugao desperately need.
Here are some thoughts for our readers: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” Acts 20:35
“If you want quality teachers, you have to give them quality pay.” Christina Manalo, president of the Philippine Public Schools Teachers Association’s Metro Manila chapter
“For 2023, we should plan for more international exposure so we can get the confidence and experience of playing with different countries. It’s never too early to start.” Gilas Pilipinas (Philippine national team) point guard Kiefer Ravena**

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