MANILA – The state-owned Duty Free Philippines Corp. (DFPC) signaled the start of the Christmas season during a tree-lighting ceremony at its newest downtown outlet, the Luxe Duty Free, at the Mall of Asia Complex in Pasay City.

The ceremony was led by Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on Monday night, together with DFPC chief operating officer Vico Angala.

With a few foreign tourists shopping at the store, Romulo-Puyat said in her speech the Department of Tourism (DOT) hopes that international visitors could experience the country's vibrant and unique Christmas customs.

"Duty Free Philippines has been part of the Christmas celebrations of the families of overseas Filipinos," she said.

"It has been customary for returning residents to pass by our stores to buy something they can give to their loved ones as pasalubong. As for those who leave the country during the holidays, the Duty Free offers goods that travelers may bring back to their own countries as souvenirs," she added.

The tourism chief also directed the DFPC to feature and allocate spaces for local products that international visitors, as well as balikbayans can bring to remind them of the Philippines.

"We must utilize Duty Free to introduce one-of-a-kind, up-and-coming Filipino products that highlight Filipino ingenuity, creativity, and artistry," she said.

The DOT is currently promoting a project to encourage local artisans, and small entrepreneurs to use the Duty Free as a platform to sell their products, Romulo-Puyat said.

Meanwhile, Angala said artisans may propose and present products they want to feature in duty-free stores.
"For Luxe, it's 90 percent perfume, cosmetics, fashion and the other are chocolates. For Fiesta Mall, 30 percent to 35 percent is still confectionery. For the airport, given it is limited, we only cater to basic duty-free items (such as) chocolates, liquor, and perfumes," he said.

For a long time, Angala said, the DFP has been catering to balikbayans and overseas Filipino workers.

"With new emerging markets, which are the Chinese and Koreans, we are opening the Luxe store, but again the thrust of the secretary is to highlight local items. We have right now (local) chocolates and the Kultura brand," he told reporters.

The 3,600-square meter Duty Free Luxe opened last October and offers a mix of high-end retail brands and export-quality local products to tourists. (PNA)