85 nat’l airports eyed

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Bongcato

To support the growing tourism industry, the Departments of Tourism (DoT) and of Transportation (DoTr) are working together for the development of at least 85 airports across the country.

The two department agencies came together on 10 December in Makati for a convergence conference on airport development.

According to DoT Undersecretary Arturo Bongcato Jr., the agencies have been discussing airport and seaport development for a while to boost tourism growth.

“It’s very important in terms of the growing tourism in the Philippines today. To be competitive, we have to really aim for improving our tourism infrastructure — that would involve both horizontal and vertical. We’ve shared that we have a very successful program with the Department of Public Works and Highways in developing roads leading to tourist destinations, but we’re focused now to really look at least 85 airports all over the country to make sure they’re capable and have the capacity to receive directly,” Bongcato told reporters at the sidelines of the conference.

“We also like to develop a certain path in developing airports that need initial help. There’s small airports that require some attention; they’re not primary, they’re secondary — they probably don’t have the desired number of tourists yet, but given the potential of the destination, we could give more attention to it in developing.”

The development of more airports is seen to help lift off reliance from major gateways such as Manila, Cebu, Davao and Clark through smaller airports distributed practically across the whole country, which can directly accommodate tourists.

“For instance, you want to fly directly from Korea to Siargao, therefore an airport in Siargao is important and is really able to expand and accommodate the demand for travelers from the region to come to that part of the country,” Bongcato added.

Sustainability is also vital to the development of the projects, Bongcato said. He cited the recently-launched Bohol-Panglao International Airport as an example, which featured eco-friendly facilities such as a solar-powered hot water supply system, a rainwater catchment system and a landscape including thousands of trees, shrubs and 11-hectare sodding.

“It’s a deliberate effort for Bohol to be positioned as such and this is really in line with what the DoT is doing under the leadership of Secretary (Bernadette) Puyat: creating this culture of sustainable tourism. It sounds very big, but when it comes to practical terms, it’s a very doable thing.”

“There is an existing source of budget from the DoTr, there’s a three-year rolling pipeline for developing the airports, so we will just use that initially. If there’s a need for us to source out, we will find means to do that.”

In relevance to this, Bongcato said that all of the destinations in the Philippines are being looked at and assessed to figure out which areas need rehabilitation after Boracay.

“We have seen the three secretaries — Cimatu, Año and Puyat — move around the country to look at the status of our destinations and the only intention is to follow through on the mandate given to them in Boracay — to make sure that our destinations comply with the requirements of DILG and DENR in terms of environmental and tourism-related laws, ordinances, executive orders, rules and regulations. Because if we follow all of them, I don’t think we’ll have a major problem in sustaining our destinations.”

In terms of tourist arrivals, Bongcato said that the Philippines is still enjoying double-digit growth in tourist arrivals and is on track to reach a 7.4 million end-year target.

Part of DoT’s role in the convergence is to add input as to which projects to prioritize, he added.

“We’ll show them market trends. When tourists come to the Philippines, where do they exactly want to go? Those are very important information that we can show DoTr. Because even if you have resources financially, you might not have the time required to develop these airports within a short term. That’s why the program is about development and prioritization.”

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