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“Build it and they will come,” the famous line from the movie Field of Dreams, appears to be the principle that directs the tourism development program of the Duterte Administration.
The government has allotted $23 billion for tourism infrastructure from 2016 up to the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term in 2022. The fund will cover road networks to tourist destinations, airports, ports for cruise ships, railways, site infrastructure, tourism enterprise zones, transport units, accommodation facilities and aircraft acquisition.
The tourism industry undoubtedly possesses great potentials in driving our country’s economic development. Our country has already known tourist spots and other natural wonders that are just waiting to be discovered and developed are comparable with, if not better than, the tourist spots particularly in Southeast Asia.
We have been losing in the tourism game against our Southeast Asian neighbors not because their beaches, for example, are better or more beautiful than ours, but because our tourism infrastructure is inferior.
Our airport, for one, is not exactly “tourist-friendly.” In the past years, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has been ranked as among the worst in the world. Many airports in our provinces are no different.
We hope that the airport component of the Duterte Administration’s tourism development program is one designed to give the best impression to tourists upon their arrival in the Philippines and any of our provinces—an impression that would equal their admiration of our truly world-class tourist spots.
The investment that the Duterte Administration has for tourism development is comprehensive as it targets all key components of the needs of tourists. One of such key component is access to tourist destinations. The government is also set to construct 2,620 kilometers of tourism roads.
The development of our railway system covering the entire country will definitely be a big boost to our tourism industry as it will offer faster, more convenient and more economical means of transportation just like in Europe.
Given this thrust of the Duterte Administration, the private sector needs to pitch in by investing in tourism-related ventures. The government should provide more incentives for the private sector’s participation in tourism development. This kind of public-private partnership is key to our economic development.
Likewise, we hope that such government thrust will be pursued by the succeeding administrations. It is not in the best interest of our country and people for every administration to pursue something “new” only because it wants to be credited for an idea or initiative. After all, the tourism development that we need is one that cannot be accomplished in mere six years. (Dr. Ramon Ricardo A. Roque, CESOI, Diplomate)