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Phl focuses on hyperscale infra dev’t to accelerate tourism recovery

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By Victoria “NIKE” De Dios

With the travel boom and upward trajectory of tourists’ arrival in the Philippines, the government sees the empirical need to address infrastructure development, digitalization and enhancing internet connectivity, to boost tourism further and restore the industry to its pre-pandemic levels.

In a special publication of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, 7,641 Reasons to Love the Philippines, it is said that the country continues to face challenges in bringing back the tourism industry to its pre-pandemic heights despite the promising traveler numbers.

“For a country like the Philippines, addressing the challenges for infrastructure development is a tough nut to crack,” it said.

In line with the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) goal to rehabilitate the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) through a public-private partnership agreement, the agency opened the bidding and has already received proposals for its upgrade.

The improvement of the NAIA covering all its facilities, including its runways and four terminals, aims to upgrade the current annual airport capacity to at least 62 million passengers from 35 million and increase air traffic movement to 48 per hour from 40.

The paper said that despite expectations of a gradual recovery of domestic and international travel in the Asia Pacific region by 2026, the Philippine tourism industry has continued to forge ahead, bolstered by the growing aviation sector.

“The availability of an increasing number of direct flights and services to the Philippines has been instrumental in this growth,” it said.

The paper particularly cited United Airlines which launched daily flights between Manila and San Francisco by the fourth quarter of 2023, and ZIPAIR Tokyo Co. which marked its highly anticipated debut in the Philippines in July.  

The publication said regional airports are also being beefed up as DOTr is also expediting the public-private partnership projects for nine regional airports, which include Laguindingan, Bohol-Panglao, Bicol International Airport, Iloilo, Puerto Princesa, Davao, Bacolod and Kalibo airports.

“The government is not only focused on improving air travel; plans are also underway to ensure connectivity by land travel,” it said.  

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) was recently allocated with a P13.97 billion fund to build access roads and bridges to declared tourism destinations under a convergence program with the Department of Tourism (DOT).

Already 158 kilometers of roads leading to tourist destinations had been constructed through the DOT-DPWH partnership. Among these completed and rehabilitated roads are in Pangasinan, Negros Occidental, Occidental Mindoro and other provinces.

During chamber’s podcast show, DPWH Undersecretary Maria Catalina Cabral bared big ticket projects, including the TPLEX (Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway) Extension (Up to Ilocos Sur), SLEX (South Luzon Expressway) Extension (Up to Quezon for Phase 2, then up to Sorsogon for Phase 3), while the Sorsogon-Samar Bridge and Bataan-Cavite Bridge are now on the drawing boards.

The tourism blueprints eye to embark on hyperscale infrastructure development by embarking on an integrated development program and include a robust emphasis on enhancing internet connectivity and digitalization.  

The DOT and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) have signed an agreement that paved the way for improved internet connectivity in tourism spots. Forty-six destinations were already powered up, while work for the remaining 48 areas continued.

Launched in August, DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy earlier said the Philippine e-visa system aims to resolve administrative hurdles and facilitate the advancement of the country’s tourism agenda.

The improvement of tourism infrastructure and accessibility, and cohesive and comprehensive digitalization and connectivity are among the seven strategic goals under the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) 2023-2028.  

Other strategic goals include enhancement of the overall tourists experience; equalization of tourism product development and promotion; diversification of the tourism portfolio through multidimensional tourism; maximization of domestic and international tourism; and strengthening tourism governance through close collaborations with national and local stakeholders.

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