This seems to be the message and marketing goal of the Department of Tourism (DOT) when it recently linked hands with the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) to offer incentive packages for international filmmakers to lure them to shoot their films here in the country.

The DOT and the FDCP recently launched the “Let’s Create Together” campaign to promote film tourism in the Philippines, a story we featured last Sunday.

The program offers two incentive options for foreign producers, provided that they work with duly registered producers or co-producers in the country: (1) Film Location Incentive Program (FLIP), where feature films in any genre, television series, and web content may be applied for; and (2) International Co-production Fund (ICOF), applicable for feature films in any format (live action, documentary, or animation).

To qualify, the production cost of shooting in the Philippines must be at least P8 million ($155,000). Upon approval, as much as P10 million ($193,000) cash rebate may be availed through FLIP or ICOF.

The “Let’s Create Together” campaign, which was officially launched during the Busan International Film Festival this October, gives seven key reasons why the Philippines should be a premier choice for international producers. (1) Composed of more than 7,000 islands and diverse cultural wonders, the Philippines is a broad spectrum of settings for practically every story; (2) English-speaking talent and crews—blessed with a supreme English literacy, the local work force promises better understanding, teamwork and rapport; (3) One-stop shop for permits, visas, and tax-free importation—ease of doing business has never been better with integrated services, thereby saving time and energy; (4) Skilled artists and technicians—a newly instituted National Registry, a database of film professionals, provides a broad selection of film industry manpower; (5) Available and dependable equipment and facilities—smooth planning, coordination and execution of all production activities while in the country shall be ensured with the assistance of accredited Filipino line production companies; (6) Enhanced security in cities and countryside—assurance in safety is well coordinated whether they be in urban or rural areas; and (7) A location incentive that cuts your costs—a financing grant designed to optimize the potential of a film project whether it’s undergoing pre-production, production, or post-production phase.

Incidentally, a pending bill in the Senate authored by Senator Grace Poe, called the “Philippine Film and Television Tourism Act Of 2019”, also has the same goals as the DOT-FDCP campaign.

A number of films have been shot here in the Philippines, including The Bourne Legacy, which created such a huge buzz in 2012 when its Hollywood crew shot the film’s action highlights in different parts of Metro Manila, and its concluding scene in idyllic Palawan.

Other notable films that were shot here in parts include Apocalypse Now, An Officer and A Gentleman, Born on the Fourth of July, Platoon, Thirteen Days and Amigo, a film about the Philippine-American War that was shot entirely in Bohol.

The popular reality-TV series, Survivor, also shot some of its past editions in the Caramoan Islands in Camarines Sur.

This should perhaps be a lesson to producers of local films, TV shows and telenovelas. A lot of them like shooting in other countries when they could very well shoot these films and TV shows here.

If the Philippines is more than good enough a location for big foreign film crews, why choose to shoot in other countries? We must patronize and promote our own country and local destinations.

The historical drama and forthcoming 2019 Metro Manila Film Festival entry Culion, for instance, depicts the bucolic Palawan island in the 1940s, when it was still a secluded colony populated by people who suffered from Hansen’s disease, commonly known as leprosy.

Culion has a unique history among all the islands in the Philippines, being part of world medical history, having been the largest and best-equipped leprosarium in the world during the American colonial period.

By focusing on the indomitable spirit of its people and by featuring its most picturesque settings, the film seeks to erase the stigma associated with Culion (which had contained the disease in 1980 and was declared leprosy-free by the World Health Organization in 2006) and promote it as a favorable destination for tourists.

There should, indeed, be a similar program of fiscal incentives for local filmmakers who make films that promote and showcase our country’s scenic locations, culture, history and heritage.

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