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Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Friday filed four separate bills aimed at promoting tourism while protecting the traveling public, locals and foreigners alike.

Santiago said the four bills were aimed at increasing access to beaches and ensuring public safety.

In filing the Public Beach Bill (Senate Bill No. 2732), the senator wants to mandate local government units (LGUs) to identify beaches open to the public and establish access to these areas.

“We like calling the Philippines ‘the beach capital of Asia,’ but access to shorelines and other coastal areas is impeded by conflicting laws and overlapping jurisdiction,” Santiago said.

This, she explained, has led to the absence of clear regulations regarding the use and management of marine and coastal resources; poor zoning and planning; and weak enforcement of public access rights.

If enacted, the Public Beach Bill will direct LGUs and concerned agencies to draw rights-of-way to shorelines or coastal areas open to the public, and put up conspicuous signs for public beaches.

It will prohibit anyone from hindering access to identified public beaches; from dumping waste and quarrying in such areas; and from removing, obstructing, or vandalizing public beach signs.

“There should be universal beach access with due consideration to private property rights and without compromising conservation efforts and coastal management programs,” the senator said.

Santiago also filed the First Aid in Resorts Bill (S.B. No. 2733), which seeks to increase penalties for resorts that fail to provide one lifeguard per 20 meters of shoreline, and first aid personnel, supplies, and equipment.

In her Lifeguard Bill (S.B. No. 2678), Santiago wants owners of pools and other aquatic facilities to hire one lifeguard for every 250 square meters of pool area. Such lifeguards should man the pool during all hours of operation.

“With the increasing number of travelers, it is incumbent upon the government to ensure the safety of tourists, both local and foreign,” the senator said.

She cited Department of Tourism data showing some 4.6 million foreigners visited the country last year. Domestic tourism is also flourishing, spurred by travel promos and lower air fares.

Besides protecting tourists from accidents or untoward incidents, Santiago is also campaigning against the practice of harassing tourists into buying local products by filing the Anti-Tourism Harassment Bill (S.B. No. 2727).

“We need to encourage responsible marketing among our local vendors and service providers and curb the practice of repeatedly and aggressively soliciting business from unwilling tourists,” the senator noted.

Santiago remains on medical leave, citing her lung cancer, stage four. She, however, performs her duties by focusing on measures she deems priority. Earlier this year, she presided over public hearings on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, on the Jennifer Laude case, and on six treaties.

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