By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz
A LAWMAKER has proposed imposing an entry tax on foreign visitors to help fund tourism development programs.
“The fixed rate of $25 is proposed to be competitive with that of the current taxes other countries have set,” Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund “L-Ray” F. Villafuerte Jr. said on Wednesday.
He said this rate is based on the average entry and exit taxes in other Asian countries like Thailand and Indonesia.
Thailand, the most visited country among southeast Asian countries, has announced that it will collect tourist taxes of $9 or 300 baht beginning June 2023.
Bali, a top island destination of Indonesia, collects a $9.78 tourist tax based on a law passed in 2019.
Mr. Villafuerte filed House Bill No. 5285 to “build on the growth of the tourism industry in the Philippines,” according to the measure’s explanatory note.
Tax collected will be allotted to the Tourism Development Fund, the Department of Tourism, and local government units for their tourism programs.
John Paolo R. Rivera, associate director of the Asian Institute of Management, said a levy would not discourage international visitors if the objective for the tax collection is clear, such as to increase government revenue from tourism and support natural resource preservation.
“If the tourist tax is meant for another purpose, it might be just an added cost for travelers. It is important that the rationale of the tax be explained,” Mr. Rivera said in a Viber message.
The bill is pending at the committee on ways and means.
The Philippines lags behind most southeast Asian countries in terms of foreign tourist arrivals.
World Bank data show that in 2019, before the tourism growth momentum was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, the country had 8.26 million international visitors, about half of Indonesia’s 16.11 million. Thailand was the top destination in the region with almost 40 million arrivals, followed by Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam.