Region 12 trains more ‘tourist cops’

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 3 July) – The Police Regional Office 12 has trained 96 more policemen in the region to become “tourist cops” as it moves to transform local police stations into “tourist-friendly” units.

Chief Supt. Lester Camba, Region 12 police director, said such move is part of their continuing efforts to help enhance the continuing tourism promotion and development initiatives within the region’s four provinces and five cities.

He said they are currently preparing for the redeployment of the newly-trained “tourist cops,” who were mostly assigned in units near identified tourism sites or attractions in the region.

The official said the 96 policemen earlier underwent a three-day intensive training under the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Tourist-Oriented Police for Community Order and Protection or TOPCOP program.

The training was facilitated by personnel from the PNP central office’s public safety office and the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Region 12.

It covered modules or lessons on basic geography, focusing on tourism attractions found within their assigned areas.

Also included were modules on tourism awareness, cultural sensitivity, response to tourism-related cases, basic principles of tourist safety, first aid, emergency response and basic life support, crisis management, community-based guiding, foreign language and familiarization tours.

Nelly Nita Dillera, DOT Region 12 director, said the training program is mainly focused on preparing and enhancing the capability of local policemen in responding to the needs of tourists or visitors in their area of assignments.

For police units or stations situated near tourist attractions, she said it’s important for policemen to be capable of ensuring the safety or protection of tourists and at the same time address some of the needs like basic information about the area.

“When tourists or visitors get lost in a certain area, their first instinct is to go to the nearest police station or unit to seek help. So it’s really necessary to make our policemen as partners as well in our tourism initiatives,” she said.

“So while assisting our tourists, for instance regarding directions to a tourism site, they (policemen) can also give insights or stories about the area as well as some tips,” Dillera added.

The DOT had signed a memorandum of agreement with the PNP to provide mechanisms that will ensure the safety and security of local and foreign tourists in the country and the establishment of the TOPCOP program.

Republic Act 9593 or the Tourism Act of 2009 provides for the establishment of a tourism security force within the PNP to assist in maintaining peace and order in areas with high tourism traffic.

Last year, the DOT-12 launched the “12th paradise” as the region’s tourism brand as part of its enhanced promotion and marketing campaign for the area’s tourist attractions.

The campaign focuses on “what Region 12 can offer as a paradise” through its world-class natural and cultural destinations.

The agency identified the famed Lake Sebu in South Cotabato, Gumasa white sand beaches in Sarangani Province, bird sanctuary in Tacurong City, and Asik-Asik Falls in Alamada town in North Cotabato as among the region’s banner tourist destinations.