DOT urges Bicol LGUs to form 'tourist cops'

By Connie Calipay and Jason Neola


The Department of Tourism (DOT) urged local government units (LGUs) in Bicol with popular tourist sites to create their Tourist-Oriented Police for Community Order and Protection (TOPCOP) to ensure the security of local and foreign visitors and to hasten the tourism industry’s recovery from the pandemic.


In an interview, Herbie Aguas, DOT Bicol director, said the creation of tourist cops is needed to assure foreign and domestic visitors that it is safe and more fun to visit the different attractions in the region.


"The TOPCOP will provide added security operations for local tourists and establishments and respond to tourist-related security and safety issues. The travel and experience of tourists in certain areas will be safer with the TOPCOP strictly enforcing health protocols and guidelines," Aguas said.


He also said with the opening of tourist destinations in the region, there is a need to assure the visitors that they are safe amid the health crisis.


“If the tourists feel safe, they will keep on coming back. Uulit at babalik and babalik pa sila (they will keep on returning),” Aguas said, noting the rise in the region’s tourist arrivals since the country began to open up the tourism industry in February.


He said the DOT would train police personnel on the basic principles of tourist safety and the Filipino brand of service.


The training will also include lessons on tourism awareness, values, and character.


"(The) DOT will train them how to interact with tourists, they must also be familiar with the culture, tradition, and character of the place," he added.


In Naga City, Arts, Culture, and Tourism Officer Alec Francis Santos recently surveyed the top concern of tourists when choosing a destination and they found out it is safety and security.


As a direct response to that concern, they launched recently a tourist police unit with 21 personnel.


"By having a dedicated police unit for Naga’s tourism industry, the city can expect a safer environment for both foreign and local visitors. This is crucial since tourism is one of Naga’s economic pillars and is responsible for generating much-needed jobs and livelihood," Santos said in a separate interview.


He said the creation of TOPCOP by the LGU’s Arts, Culture, and Tourism Office is in collaboration with the Office of the City Director.


"The LGU Naga, in partnership with the Philippine National Police (PNP), is planning to conduct more training for PNP personnel who wish to join the TOPCOP," Santos added.


Aguas said the city government of Naga is on the right track when it decided to have the TOPCOP, such as in Calaguas Island in the municipality of Vinzons, Camarines Norte and in Donsol, Sorsogon, which takes pride in its "butanding" or whale shark interaction and festival.


“The idea of conducting training for (the) tourist police will provide us a prepared venue where we can arrange an ideal benchmarking with regards to the adoption of the TOPCOP program by other LGUs,” he said. (PNA)