DOT defends Star Rating system from false allegations

September 22, 2015 8:09 am 

By Azer N. Parrocha

MANILA, Sept. 21 (PNA) — The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Monday defended its Star Rating system, denying claims that the agency did not consult the right people to determine its criteria.

DOT made the statement in response to the remarks made by Network of Independent Travel & Allied Services Philippines, Inc. (NITAS) president Robert Lim Joseph who described the said measure as an “unnecessary” grading system for tourism establishments.

Launched in 2012, the Star Rating system is a five-star grading system which mainly focuses on inventory, availability, condition, and quality of a specific facility or service. An establishment recognized in the DOT Star Rating system means that they comply with internationally-recognized standards.

Joseph, in a report from the Philippine Star, said that he was “approached by hoteliers and resort owners to complain about the rating system being implemented by the DOT.”

He reportedly filed a case against DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., Undersecretary Maria Victoria Jasmin, accreditation division head Jose Tolentino and DOT’s foreign consultants on the project by Plantation Bay Holdings Corp., owner of the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa on Mactan Island in Cebu.

Jasmin, however, told reporters in an interview that there was no truth to his false claims.

“(It is) probably because they did not get the rating they wanted,” Jasmin said.

“I don’t understand why they (NITAS) came out with all of these (allegations)) without even talking to us. It is sad that somebody who does not believe in the system will go all out to destroy the system,” she added.

False claims

Contrary to the NITAS’ claim, Jasmin said that DOT has already began consulting the Philippine Hotel Owners Association (PHOA) about the Star Rating system. While there were some disagreements, she said that PHOA agreed that it was necessary to establish a set of standards that should be followed.

“We have formulated the standard with different tourism stakeholders; we started the new system which is the third party assessment. It’s not only DOT assessing the facility but also another person whom we call the third party assessor,” Jasmin said.

“The news article mentioned that we paid the consultants so much (but) we never paid a single centavo,” she added.

She explained that the DOT received a Php7.1-million grant from Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) also known as the ABD-CIDA Technical Assistance on Improving Competitiveness in Tourism in 2013.

Among the projects proposed under the grant are skills training programs for the private sector, local government units, civil society, and DOT agencies. Also included is the pilot implementation of the new system of accreditation and the development of standards for service quality. The technical assistance will be piloted in Cebu, Bohol, Palawan, and Davao.

The ADB-CIDA program is envisioned to create more employment opportunities and advancement for the local workforce as well as provide local government units with better capacity to improve their regulations in attracting more investments and tourism activities.

Agree to disagree

“We are saying that the result of the assessment is close as possible to what they have. They may not accept it (but) they have the opportunity to disagree,” the DOT official said.

Jasmin also pointed out that when a resort operator sends them a letter stating reasons why they disagree with the assessment results, the agency sends out another team of assessors to re-evaluate or re-audit.

To date, Jasmin said about 40 to 50 percent of about 740 DOT-accredited establishments still need re-auditing.

“There’s an opportunity for them (establishments) to correct the deficiency. They ask us to re-audit because before we make the final assessment they want to have already corrected the deficiencies,” she said.

The DOT targets to announce the results of the Star Rating system assessment in November.

When asked if Plantation Bay was willing to undergo re-auditing, Jasmin is willing to perform re-auditing on the establishment upon the request of its owner.

Jasmin further noted that excluding Plantation Bay, other hotel and resort owners have not protested the Star Rating system. However, she said that some have disagreed with re-auditing results.

New standards

Before the Star Rating system was introduced, hotels were classified as luxury, first-class, standard, and economy while resorts were classified as triple A, double A and A.

Plantation Bay earlier criticized the DOT for “downgrading” its 5-star rating to 4-star rating, but Jasmin was firm in saying that the Star Rating system was entirely different from the previous rating system.

”There is no reason for them to say (that they) were downgraded because it’s a different classification, a different set of standards,” she said. (PNA)

FPV/BNB/ANP/EDS

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