The Puerto Princesa Underground River. (Photo from the Department of Tourism FB page)

The Department of Tourism (DOT) has teamed up with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to tighten up security at major attractions across the country as tourism recovers.

In a ceremony at the PDEA head office in Quezon City on March 14 for the purpose, Tourism Development Planning Undersecretary Woodrow Maquiling, Jr. represented DOT Sec. Berna Romulo-Puyat, who was on official business.

Together with Undersecretary Maquiling were PDEA Director General Wilkins Villanueva and PNP chief P/Gen. Dionardo B. Carlos, who co-signed the memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the PDEA and PNP, respectively.

“We welcome this latest collaboration with our country’s police force and drug enforcement agency in an aim to provide greater deterrence and protection against the illicit trafficking of dangerous drugs in tourist destinations,” said Puyat in a statement released by her office.

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The current cooperation, known as the Tourism Operation Protection Against Illegal Drugs, or TOP-AID, is a follow-up to the TOPCOP program, which is a tourism security unit that assists in keeping peace and order in high tourism traffic areas.

Since its inception in 2011, TOPCOP has trained 5,457 law enforcement officers and created 365 Tourist Police Assistance Centers (TPAC) in strategic areas throughout the country.

Under the new TOP-AID MOA, the DOT, PDEA and PNP agreed to cooperate and render assistance to ensure further protection, safety, and security of tourists in DOT-identified tourist destinations.

On the part of PDEA, it agreed to deploy appropriate manpower to TOP-AID centers in DOT-identified tourist destinations. These tourist assistance and complaint desks will focus on drug-related concerns.

PDEA will also lead an information drive on the drug-free workplace while assisting in drug clearing operations including apprehending any person engaged in illegal drug activities in coordination with the PNP and concerned local government units.

Meanwhile, other than identifying key tourist destinations with high-tourism traffic where TOP-AID centers may be put up, the DOT will also spearhead the training of these personnel on Tourism Awareness and the signature Filipino brand of service and hospitality that is world-renowned.

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