Puerto Princesa International Airport, one of the gateways to Palawan province.

The city government has advised tourists and travelers visiting Puerto Princesa to patronize travel agencies and tour operators that are accredited with them and the Department of Tourism (DOT), noting the proliferation of online scams victimizing tourists.

Demetrio Alvior Jr., the chief of the City Tourism Department (CTD), advised them to do their homework, get recommendations before their trip by visiting their Facebook fan page at https://www.facebook.com/ppctourism, and only make reservations through trustable websites and social media pages to stay away from dodgy operators.

He warned that tourists who choose to transact with dubious travel and tour agencies run the risk of having their vacation money stolen from them.

“What we had experienced, maybe around three to four in the past—not actually scam—but they booked in a place that had already closed but was still marketing. We helped them get compensated,” Alvior said.

“There’s also one before the pandemic. They arrived, but were unable to locate their travel agency. We tracked it down, but its office wasn’t in Palawan. They booked on Facebook. He’s a foreigner who has a Filipina partner,” he added.

Demetrio said if they can identify the cause of the issue, and it is reported to them, they will be able to help tourists whose reservations have been compromised or who have had money stolen from them. They go with them to the police station so that a blotter can be filled out, facts recorded, or complaints filed.

“We can assist them in receiving compensation if the travel agency or hotel where they previously booked is located here. However, if they made the reservation with someone on Facebook, it will be difficult to track. They can visit our fan page on Facebook that has a list of accredited hotels, or inquire from us about reputable travel and tour agencies,” Alvior added, reiterating that tourists have to be careful not to be tricked by online fraudsters.

DOT to address growing complaints
Alvior’s statement came after Christina Garcia Frasco, secretary of the Department of Tourism (DOT), made a promise to the Filipino community in London on November 4 (London time) that they would do something about the growing number of reports of scams against tourists.

Frasco told the Filipino community about the Tourist Assistance Call Center that the DOT will soon open to help tourists who are traveling around the Philippines with any problems they might have.

“We take these things very seriously. And that is why we will fully engage as well with the Department of Justice (DOJ) as far as ensuring the full prosecution to the fullest extent of the law of these individuals and groups that engage in scams against tourists, whether they are Filipinos or foreigners,” she said.

The people who attended came from different Filcom organizations, associations, and sectors, such as the academe, healthcare, MICE, real estate, travel, and tours, among others. Secretary Frasco gave them a chance to share their ideas about travel and tourism.

Frasco was in London for the World Travel Market at the time.

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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.