MANILA – The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Tuesday issued a stern warning to individuals and groups reportedly hiking rates and taking advantage of the room allotments for repatriated overseas Filipino workers during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) period.

“The Department firmly denounces this practice as it strongly encourages accommodation establishments to offer their best rates possible, with no room for third-party negotiators that compound the best and barest rates,” the agency said in a statement.

DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat warned both the third-party negotiators and conniving accommodation establishments on the legal repercussions of activities that take advantage of the OFWs and even the stranded tourists.

The statement came after the agency received reports from the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA) that third-party individuals and groups have been approaching accommodation establishments including hotels, resorts, pension houses, and serviced apartments to negotiate for markup rates intended for OFWs.

The said individuals and groups reportedly offer to serve as middlemen, in exchange for a commission, thus marking up the room rates.

Under Administrative Order No. 2020-001-B issued on March 30, accommodation establishments that are allowed to operate during the ECQ period “are strongly encouraged to provide the lowest possible rates to guests, especially to OFWs and employees from neighboring basic establishments.”

“Those reported to be engaging in opportunistic pricing may be subject to the relevant penalties under applicable laws, rules, and regulations,” the statement read.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, more than a dozen thousand OFWs have returned to the Philippines. (PNA)

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