Dr. Rosemarie G. Edillon
Opening Ceremony of the 29th National Statistics Month
Philippine International Convention Center
October 02, 2018
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honor and pleasure to be here with you today as we commence the celebrations for 29th National Statistics Month.
October is the month for statistics, in accordance with Presidential Proclamation No. 647 of then President Corazon Aquino. The Philippine Statistics Authority has shown vigor and enthusiasm in taking the lead for this annual celebration. For that, let us all commend the men and women of the PSA for their hard work. I also would like to extend the commendations from Secretary Pernia, who is currently at the Senate for the budget hearing.
Statistics is an essential part of development work. Through scientific statistical methods, we crunch numbers and data to make sense of our day-to-day realities. The word statistics comes from the German noun, Statistik, and Latin, statisticum, meaning “of the state.” Even in the olden days, providing accurate and reliable information has already been part of the intrinsic nature of good governance. I would even venture to say that Moses and Aaron were the first statisticians; the first set of enumerators were the leaders of the clans of Israel.
The theme of this year’s National Statistics Month is “Exploring Philippine Wonders in Numbers: Statistics Towards Sustainable Tourism Development.” The theme asks us to assess our present situation, but explore is also about looking towards the future.
The Philippines is endowed with abundant natural resources. Take a look at our fertile and arable lands, coastlines and rich biodiversity. Our country is one of the world’s megadiverse countries, hosting more than 52,177 species of flora and fauna, of which more than half is found nowhere else in the world.
In 2017, the DOT reported that foreign tourist arrivals reached more than 6 million, while during the first half of 2018, we recorded a total of 3.71 million foreign tourist arrivals. Data from the PSA also shows that the tourism industry contributed 12.2 percent to the Philippine economy in 2017, which is 3.6 percent higher than in 2016. It was also recorded in 2017 that 5.3 million people were employed by the tourism industry. With these numbers, the tourism sector is obviously a driver economic growth driver and a major employer .
While it is good to promote what our country has to offer, we should also take care of our resources, and make sure that promotional activities are responsible. This task does not belong only to tourism officials—you and I are equally responsible.
Though I’m sure you are already aware of this, let me just re-state the UNSC definition of tourism: “Comprises the activities of persons traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes not related to the exercise of an activity remunerated from within the place visited.”
The key features are the following: it pertains to the activities of the tourist, tourists are visitors or not from the area; they are here for leisure or business. They want to relax, be refreshed, and be reinvigorated. We provide them with services like accommodation, sightseeing opportunities, swimming options, etc., and these are experience goods. Since they are visitors, they constitute additional demand for the area’s resources but only while they are in the area. This also means demand volatility.
Just to reiterate, we are dealing with visitors. A comprehensive tourism program should include the following:
- Visitor management
- Hotel and accommodation; accreditation, training
- Food and food supply management
- Transport and traffic management
- Cultural and leisure activities
- Solid waste management, wastewater management
- Resource and environmental management
- Financial management
We all know what happens when we allow unchecked use of tourism sites. Boracay, one of our world-renowned beaches, fell victim to environmental degradation because of this. The painful solution of closing down the resort island resulted in job and income losses.
How might statistics help develop this comprehensive program? Some of these components are the domain of tourism management and marketing professionals; still they need to rely on official statistics. Beyond the statistics we have reporting, we need (1) more frequent and timely statistics, particularly at destination sites; (2) spending patterns of tourists, particularly for food; (3) environmental accounts, including ecosystem valuation of major destination sites.
All these are important to formulate a comprehensive sustainable tourism development program. At the heart of this program is the estimation of the carrying capacity of the tourism site. This pertains to the number of individuals who can be supported in a given area within natural resource limits and without degrading the natural, social, cultural, and economic environment for the present and future generations. We should remember as well that carrying capacity of an area is not fixed; it can be altered or improved by technology. And this can be done; we have an example right here in our country – the LGU of Palompon, Leyte, one of the 2017 Galing Pook awardees.. Kalanggaman is an island bar; before the LGU opened it for visitor tourism, they first estimated the carrying capacity of the island. Given its fragile ecosystem, they figured that they should be encouraging tourists who are interested in rest, relaxation, even meditation. They estimated the carrying capacity by determining the primary limiting feature of the island, which is its space. They then figured that each tourist wanting rest and relaxation would need about 10 square meters, and that was it.
In closing, let me refresh the reason why we want sustainable tourism. Remember that we conducted a survey of what Filipinos want to do, to be and to have by 2040? It turns out that a good majority aspires to be tourists, mainly visiting sites around the country. And some respondents are children. Let us make sure that we will still be able to provide for the, a very relaxing, refreshing, and reinvigorating tourism experience in 2040 and beyond.
I call on everyone’s participation in the events under this important statistical advocacy program. Let us continue this partnership and collaboration for an empowered Philippine Statistical System.
Again, my warmest congratulations to the PSA and DOT for organizing the 29th National Statistics Month.
Thank you, and a pleasant day to everyone.