Press Release
October 20, 2012

PhilAAPA General Membership Meeting

Officers and members of PhilAAPA; our friends from IAAPA Asia Pacific; my distinguished colleagues; guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Good afternoon. It is with great pleasure that I stand here today to be your guest speaker in the general membership meeting of the Philippine Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.

It pleases me to witness the induction of your new members. I am equally pleased to inform all PhilAAPA members present that I welcome your organization's active campaign in raising the standards in the Philippine amusement and attractions industry.

I fully support your efforts and I truly appreciate how great your plans and projects are panning out to be.

I am aware that one of the objectives of your organization is to bring together all the key players in the local amusement and attractions industry who share a common objective in ensuring increased efficiency and viability of your respective parks and attractions companies. At the same time we have the paramount objective of ensuring public safety while our people are engaged in clean fun, safe and healthful recreational activities.

I also know that as PhilAAPA members, not only do you volunteer your time, resources and talents to improve the industry, but you also encourage high safety standards for all players in the sector.

Ladies and gentlemen, your networking and sharing of best practices from around the world will no doubt lead to successfully address all the challenges that your industry faces.

PhilAAPA, led by your president Mario Mamon, has launched a campaign toward creating a culture of safety in the local amusement park and attraction industry.

The safety campaign, as I am told, includes bringing over the industry heavyweights in the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions' Safety Institute, which is the first in the country.

For that you deserve the appreciation and applause of our people.

The global amusement and attractions industry's number one priority is safety. Amusement parks and attractions provide one of the safest forms of recreation available to the public worldwide.

In our country, the private and public sectors can and should help each other to promote high standards for safety for parks and attractions.

During the IAAPA Safety Institute held in March this year, Mr. Noble Coker of Hong Kong Disneyland Resort explained that while the industry is competitive, your leaders made it clear that you do help each other across the board to promote standards for safety. This is due to the fact any untoward incident that happens in any amusement park or attraction, wherever it may be, can adversely affect others in the sector for the reason that public perception may start doubting the safety of the facilities and attractions offered by the industry.

What then is the role of government in helping foster higher safety standards in the amusement parks and attractions industry?

There are a thousand and one possibilities. But I think we can begin by harnessing the youth to get involved in the promotion and upkeep of our amusement parks and attractions.

The specific activities in the area of amusement parks and attractions are endless. But to make them attractive to the youth will need the expertise of those whose entrepreneurial skills equip them to address that particular area where both the youth and the organizers of the amusement parks and attractions could mutually benefit from.

I would in fact suggest that those who want to - or have already - put up amusement parks and attractions should perhaps harness the talents of young Filipino computer wizards in cartooning, designing and advertising of which we have a lot. I am sure that there are a lot of local talents who can give Mickey Mouse and the Angry birds a run for their money.

As far as government is concerned, I guess for the moment what it can immediately do is create a climate that is conducive to the putting up and running amusement park and attractions businesses. That means, among other things, facilitating the issuance of business permits for those places of amusement and recreation and ensuring the security of the patrons of those places of fun and frolic. It may interest our friends in the industry to know that my esteemed colleague in the upper House, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, has filed a bill in the 15th Congress to create an amusements parks safety board to prevent and address untoward accidents that happen at amusement parks and attractions.

In the lower House, a congressional committee chaired by Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing has agreed to create a technical working group to fine-tune various versions of the amusements parks safety board bill.

Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress agree on the need to create a regulatory body that will ensure the safety of rides in amusement parks and provide safety standards and rules that shall govern the operation of all amusement parks in the country. May I suggest that our friends in the industry participate in the discussions of the regulatory board so that we can come up not only with a safety board that will cover all the danger areas of the industry but with a safety board that is created with the acquiescence and support of the industry.

As chairman of the Senate Committee on Games and Amusements, I am proud to say that I have made my own contributions to the betterment of the industry.

Much of our attention has been spent on the casino-related activities of the state Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), particularly during the Arroyo administration.

Plunder and graft charges have now been filed against parties responsible for irregularities in PAGCOR and I am confident that the courts will rule in our favor.

As a legislator, my stand is that PAGCOR should be a casino regulator and not an operator. It should be abolished and replaced with a new commission, handing over the operation of casinos and gambling facilities to the private sector. This way, all moral hazards, including lapses in financial transparency, can be better addressed.

The new commission's role will be to regulate gambling facilities.

I mentioned PAGCOR to you because I find similarities in working on the framework on a new gaming commission with creating a safety board for parks and attractions.

We must learn from our experiences and share them with one another in finding solutions to emerging problems that are likely to beset the industry.

Senate Bill 2255 that is pending in my committee outlines the safety board's role and tasks. I encourage you to help us refine our congressional debate with your inputs.

For your guidance, among other things, the bill will define how the authority WILL issue permits to operate for all amusement parks, small or fixed, already existing or new will be done.

The board will also be empowered to disallow the operation of an amusement park if it deems that the park is unsafe.

It will make recommendations to the chief of the Bureau of Fire Protection concerning the board's findings on safety issues related to amusement rides.

Members of the board will also consult with engineering authorities and organizations who are studying and developing amusement ride safety standards.

Most importantly, the board will also have the power to adopt a safety code for all amusement rides.

The bill, in general, seeks to promote and adopt higher standards of safety for the good of the amusement parks and attractions and their customers.

That said, I want to ask for your views on specifics regarding the proposed measure as well as raise questions that you can perhaps help best to answer.

Should we use local standards and experiences in amusement parks and attractions safety or should we get international input in setting a higher bar? Can we strike a balance in doing both?

The IAAPA, for example, has safety statistics on incidents that occur in amusement parks and attractions. In the United States, nearly 300 million people visit the approximately 400 amusement parks annually. Of the nearly 2 billion rides taken by Americans in 2010, around 1,207 ride-related injuries were recorded.

The number of recorded injuries is less than point-000005 percent of all rides taken by people in a year.

Compare those statistics to the number of vehicular accidents in a year even in this country and one can conclude with certainty that a park ride is safer than a regular car ride. Do we have similar studies and reports on amusement park incidents that industry stakeholders can access?

Another question could be, Do we look at safety culture from either a preventive or punishment perspective?

A punishment perspective looks at the safety culture concern as punitive. This approach supposes that hefty fines and threats of closure of the facilities of erring companies will force industry players to follow higher safety standards.

A preventive perspective, however, looks at the issue from a bottoms-up perspective, meaning, an education campaign is the best solution to promote a safety culture.

Should the proposed safety board follow either approach or both?

In drafting, discussing, and approving a new law that will create a safety board, I am keen to seek the input of all amusement park and attraction industry stakeholders, particularly officials and members of PhilAAPA.

You have the experience and know-how in ensuring the best practices for your industry, for your best interests.

I have no doubt therefore, that your safety-first initiatives will lead to the realization of many of your ideals for the Philippine amusement parks and attractions industry.

May I conclude by stating that as a senator and chairman of the games and amusements committee, I will continue to partner with PhilAAPA to improve and strengthen the safety standards of our amusement parks and attractions.

As I wind up this talk, may I commend your members and officials who are engaged in your noble effort to enliven the lives of our people but at the same time are concerned about making things safe and enjoyable for them.

In particular, I wish to thank your president, Mr. Mario Mamon; your vice-president Haydee Kwan; secretary Antonette Gonzalez; treasurer Teresa Rivas; executive director Ricky Tamparong; and trustees Sid Laforteza, Bong Brosas and Kris Mago for your continuing efforts and involvement in government and private sector partnerships and dialogues.

May I once again thank you most sincerely for the work you are doing and at the same time I wish you continued commitment and success in your projects.

All of you present here today represent the backbone of your industry--people of excellence who work tirelessly with dedication and professionalism to help make the parks and amusements places truly areas of safe, clean and hopefully affordable enjoyment for our people.

As your representative in the Senate, I know that if lawmaking efforts succeed in instituting reforms in this country, it will because of people like you.

I am willing to be your champion in the Senate in efforts to help create an environment for amusements parks and attractions to thrive with less need for a safety board to regulate them.

I pray that with the Lord's guidance and with your assistance our children in particular and our people in general can experience the good clean fun and the happiness that safe amusement parks would make available to all of us in our lifetime.

Isang pagpupugay sa inyong mga pagpupunyagi.

Thank you.

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