Press Release
September 14, 2018

'We can do better than 7 million tourists'

In a bid to boost Philippine tourism, Senator Sonny Angara has called on the Department of Tourism (DOT) to fast-track its plans and programs in developing and promoting other tourist destinations in the country.

Angara, Senate finance committee vice chairman who is tasked to sponsor and defend DOT's budget, questioned Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on the progress of airport construction and expansion projects so as to improve tourist arrivals in the country.

The tourism secretary said the New Bohol International Airport in Panglao is almost complete, while the upgrading of San Vicente airport in Palawan and Siargao airport in Surigao del Norte are now in the works.

Based on the DOT report, 6.6 million foreign tourists visited the Philippines in 2017. Boracay and Cebu remained the top destinations last year.

For this year, the DOT is targeting 7.4 million foreign tourist arrivals.

"There should be more emphasis on new destinations. Infrastructure is really what's holding us back. We can do so much better than P7.4 million tourists. Everyone knows that," the senator said during Thursday's budget hearing.

"Tourism is a very low-hanging fruit. Kahit anong ganda ng promotions natin, hindi natin maiaangat ang bilang ng turista na pumupunta sa bansa hangga't hindi naaayos ang problema sa airport," Angara added, assuring that the expansion of San Vicente and Siargao airports will be funded.

Of the 10 ASEAN countries, Philippines is ranked 6th in terms of foreign tourist arrivals. Thailand is leading with 32 million foreign tourists followed by Malaysia with 26 million tourists.

Puyat said that despite the closure of Boracay, the number of tourist arrivals this year in the country is still growing. She said Boracay rehabilitation will be fully completed by December 2019.

"While Boracay is still undergoing rehabilitation, this is an opportune time to help bring our other tourist spots, especially in poorer areas, to international recognition. Malaking tulong ang paglago ng turismo sa paglikha ng trabaho at kabuhayan lalo na para sa mga lokal," the senator said.

According to DOT, tourism accounts for 13% of the country's total employment with 5.3 million employed Filipinos in the tourism sector.

Angara cited Sorsogon, Leyte, Negros Oriental, Zamboanga, Catanduanes and Siquijor, which are among the poorest provinces, as potential tourist magnets.

The senator stressed that by boosting the tourism industry, it would generate more jobs that could lead to poverty alleviation in these provinces.

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