Tourism department pushes for tougher rules on student field trips

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Fifteen people died, and dozens were injured when a bus ferrying students on a field trip crashed February 21, 2017 in Tanay, Rizal. The incident prompted stricter guidelines on educational activities held outside school. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 1) — Schools hosting educational field trips should work only with accredited tourism service providers to ensure the safety of students, officials said.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Tuesday called on academic institutions to arrange their field trips only with DOT-accredited tour service providers.

"The service providers that include the tour operators and other tourism facilities should be qualified, licensed, and certified to provide the services in the highest quality possible," said DOT Undersecretary Alma Rita Jimenez in a statement.

Tourism officials said it held recently its first Educational Tours Summit, which gathered tourism, education officials, school officials, tour operators, and land transportation regulators to discuss stricter safety measures on educational field trips.

"At the conclusion of the summit, school officials committed to follow government policies on educational tours by providing the necessary permits and coordinating only with DOT-accredited service providers," the DOT said.

This comes five months after a tragic bus crash in Tanay, Rizal that killed 15, mostly students, and injured dozens of others. A Senate investigation into the crash in March 2017 found that the bus used by the school to ferry its students on the field trip was nearly twice the 15-year-old limit set by the Department of Transportation for public buses.

Also read: Bus crash survivors file P10-million civil complaint

The Tanay bus crash prompted the Commission on Higher Education to temporarily ban field trips until June 2017. Tourism revenues in Tanay, which is known for its scenic views of the Sierra Madre, nature reserves, and camps, suffered a drop in the wake of the horrific accident.

"A timely response would be for all sectors to come together and  adopt stricter guidelines, commit to punishing violators, and pursue quality standards," said Region 4A Tourism Director Rebecca Labit.

Also read: Students in Tanay bus crash allegedly forced to attend ill-fated field trip

The DOT said government agencies "will ensure that all service providers are trained and accredited," but urged that schools pledge to work only with DOT-accredited providers.

The summit was spearheaded by the DOT and attended by representatives from Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, academic institutions, tour operators, and tourism industry stakeholders.

CNN Philippines senior desk editor Lara Parpan contributed to this report.