Tourism brings in P149B; Gov’t banks on PPPs to boost sector

THE TOURISM industry generated P149 billion in tourism revenues as of November this year, according to Malacañang.

Citing the Department of Tourism’s (DoT) yearend accomplishment report, the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) said 2.4 million foreigners entered the Philippines this year, exceeding the target of 1.7 million international arrivals after border restrictions were lifted in February.

For 2023, the administration under President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., who assumed office in July, targets at least 2.6 million international tourist arrivals in a low scenario, and 6.4 million in a high scenario, the Palace said.

The Tourism department would focus next year on “improving tourism infrastructure, establishing cohesive digitalization and connectivity, enhancing the country’s overall tourism experience and equalizing product development,” the OPS said.

To boost connectivity, the tourism agency plans to support local government-initiated tourism infrastructure and open up government properties under the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority to development through public-private partnerships (PPPs).

It would also develop cruise tourism, which will involve at least 136 ports of call in over 40 islands as well as “conduct regional travel fairs, develop tourism circuits and continue convergence with tourism-enhancing government agencies,” the Palace added.

The DoT also eyes to improve convenience by establishing tourism information desks and tourist rest areas, and ensure the competitiveness of the Philippine tourism sector by elevating accreditation standards.

“Under its e(Quality) initiative, the DoT will enhance the Philippine Tourism Brand campaign, finalize and approve the National Tourism Development Plan 2023-2028, launch the Philippine Experience Program and develop Overwintering packages,” the OPS said.

The Palace said the DoT also plans to push Mindanao in southern Philippines for more tourism opportunities, including tapping into the Muslim travel and halal markets.

Mr. Marcos, 65, said in his first address to Congress in July that the tourism sector would play an important role in the country’s economic recovery.

In 2021, tourist receipts reached P8.49 billion, driven mainly by a surge in domestic tourism after local border restrictions were eased.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the tourism industry accounted for 12.7% of gross domestic product in 2019, the highest since at least the year 2000, based on Philippine Statistics Authority data.

That year, income from tourism activities amounted to P2.48 trillion.

Mr. Marcos vowed to boost tourism connectivity by upgrading Philippine ports, airports, and other tourism infrastructure as part of his push for more PPPs.

In a separate statement, the OPS said the Marcos leadership would pursue more partnerships with the private sector to generate jobs and support the country’s economic recovery.

The administration would also focus on the development of PPPs at the local levels.

“The administration… is eyeing to pursue PPPs on infrastructure development and facilitate the development of local PPP projects in priority sectors to prop up the economy and create jobs,” the OPS said, citing the National Economic and Development Authority’s (NEDA) accomplishment report.

The Palace touted the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the  Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Law that took effect in October.

The revised IRR “seeks to balance public interest and the objectives of the private sector toward meeting the country’s development goals,” it said.

The revised IRR changed the definition of the Material Adverse Government Action (MAGA) to cover all government actions, not just the Executive branch.

The IRR amendment was proposed after business groups raised concerns that the previous version compels private proponents to shoulder more risk while relieving the government of responsibility for delayed deliverables.

Lawmakers seek to further amend the BOT law, with a proposed measure requiring approval from the NEDA Board only for projects worth over P5 billion.

Projects that cost more than P300 million need to be submitted to NEDA Board for approval upon the recommendation of NEDA’s Investment Coordination Committee under the existing BOT rules.

Investment analysts have said political risks and poverty might hold back PPP growth at the local levels.

Advocates have been urging the government to boost transparency and accountability at the national and local levels to attract more private sector partners. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza