BY JULIE L. PO
Secretary-General, Concerned Artists of the Philippines
Posted by Bulatlat
“Culture of tourism” is a catch-phrase promoted by the government to save us in this time of crisis. What is meant by “culture of tourism”? For concerned artists, “culture of tourism” simply means the packaging of Philippine culture for the consumption of tourists; or nurturing a “culture” in the service of tourism.
This definition galvanizes with the recently passed Tourism Act of 2009, which enacts a national policy for tourism as an engine of investment, employment, growth and national development.
A provision of the act transforms the Philippine Tourism Authority into the Tourism Enterprise Zone Authority (TEZA). The general direction can be sensed by the provision which categorically declares Intramuros as a Tourism Enterprise Zone. Meaning, Intramuros will no longer be a historical site, it will be a business zone.
The TEZA is vested with the general powers of a corporation. It can enter into contracts; contract loans; execute mortgage; construct, own, lease, and operate infrastructure facilities; etc. Furthermore, it can exercise “domain and police power, including, …the power to recommend the removal of structures which may be considered nuisances per se or which impede or impair the enjoyment of historical, cultural and natural endowments.” Besides vesting corporate powers to TEZA, the Act gives it police powers in the name of history, culture and natural endowments—a common invocation that hides state fascism and repression.
Incentives to enterprises within the tourist zones read like those for export processing zones. These include income tax holidays, tax and customs duties exemption on importations, and tax credits. Non-fiscal incentives include the right to repatriate the entire proceeds of the investment and earnings.
But, unlike the processing zones, tourist zone can be anywhere in the Philippines, as the tourism act defines a tourism zone as ANY geographic area that “has historical and cultural significance, environmental beauty, or existing or potential integrated leisure facilities…”
It further states that lands in the tourism zones may be leased to foreign investors for a period of 50 years, renewable for another 25 years. Given all, sell-out is an understatement.
Obviously, the eco-policy direction of the government is still liberalization, a proven failure considering how the world reels now from its ill effects. Thus, it will not be difficult to project the devastating outcome it will have on the country and our people.
Culturewise, the Tourism Act makes tourism the capital for the commercialization of culture. In a commercialized culture, social interaction is tied to monetary exchange. This will turn more Filipinos to be, what we call in Tagalog, “mukhang pera.”
The people in tourist zones will become alienated from their own culture as they reorient their lives to tourism as the main source of income. Traditional culture such as rice-terraces farming, weaving, carving, rituals and communal celebrations will lose their meaning and will increasingly be contrived as simply commodities for sale. If the people and their cultures are not profitable, they face destruction and displacement.
The Tourism Act of 2009 propagates the culture that the means and end is money and profit. For concerned artists, what is valuable is a culture that nurtures defense of motherland and the people. This is an indispensable element for genuine liberation, and it is priceless. (Posted by (Bulatlat.com))