Tuesday, February 17, 2015


MANILA-Senator Sonny Angara has urged port authorities to speed up the improvement of cruise ports and terminals in the country in view of becoming one of the top cruise destinations in Asia.

During a recent hearing of the Congressional Oversight Committee on Tourism (COCT), Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. cited poor port infrastructure as one of the major constraints for the development of cruise tourism in the country.

"While we are all pushing for the development of our airports, let us not forget that a number of tourists also arrive by boat. Our archipelagic geography beams with immense opportunities for a cruise tourism industry to grow and flourish," said Angara, vice chair of the Senate tourism committee.

Members of the joint tourism oversight committee present at the hearing were Sens. Angara, Nancy Binay, Bohol Rep. Rene Relampagos, Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr., Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia and Malabon Rep. Josephine Lacson-Noel. Senator Lito Lapid and Rep. Relampagos chair the Senate and House tourism committees, respectively. 

Based on the 2014 WEF Global Competitiveness Index, the Philippines' port infrastructure ranks 101st out of 144—the lowest among the ASEAN-6 with Singapore ranking 2nd, Malaysia 19th, Thailand 54th, Indonesia 77th, and Vietnam 88th.

"That our neighboring countries are way ahead of us only means that we need to double, quadruple even, our efforts. If we do not speed up infrastructure development, we'll be missing out on a lot of opportunities. Clearly, the strong demand is there. We need to step up. Sayang naman kung tayo mismo ang humahadlang sa sarili nating paglago o pag-unlad," the senator said.

Sea tourist arrivals, mostly via cruises, rose to 52,820 passengers in 2014 from 41,624 in 2013 and 23,857 in 2012, Department of Tourism (DOT) data showed.

Cruise tourism is one of the strategic tourism products identified under DOT's National Tourism Development Plan.

The Philippine Ports Authority and the DOT have listed eight ports as the country's top international hubs for cruise liners which include Davao, Bohol, Boracay, Cebu, Metro Manila, Puerto Princesa, Subic and Zamboanga.

Angara, who presided the said hearing, urged the DOT to prepare a cruise blueprint for the country that would include all areas of the Philippines so as to ensure benefits would redound to all regions.

Last year, luxury cruise ships that have called in some of our ports include Costa Victoria, with over a thousand passengers, which visited Puerto Princesa in January; M/S Europa 2, with almost 300 passengers, which explored Bohol in January and March; M/S Costa Atlantica, with 2,600 passengers, which had a stopover in waters off Boracay in March; and, Star Cruises' MV SuperStar Aquarius, with over a thousand passengers, which dropped anchor in Puerto Princesa in November, among others.

"As some of the world's leading cruise companies have already expressed interest to help develop the Philippines as a cruise ship destination, we must upgrade our ports, terminals and facilities to meet international cruise shipping standards," Angara said.

Meanwhile, in the same hearing, Angara called on stakeholders to help local communities by promoting local handicrafts and products after Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco lamented that the souvenirs available in Boracay's airport mostly come from Davao.

Angara further stressed that tourism is people's business and that its goal is not only to increase tourist arrivals but also to provide jobs and livelihood especially to the locals.


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