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PIA Press Release

Tourism corridor, next in PGMA's "super region" swing

Manila (22 February) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo resumes today her super-region tour with the inspection of tourism projects in four provinces in Central Philippines, the region mapped out as the country's tourist corridor under her five-growth region development strategy.

Press Secretary Cris Icban Jr. said the President's Super Regions travels are meant to underscore her milestone achievements over the past nine years which she intends to turn over to the next President "who will build on them further."

Central Philippines-Tourism Super Region encompasses Regions 4B, Regions 5 to 8, as well as the provinces of Romblon, Palawan, Camiguin and the island of Siargao where most of the country's top tourist destinations are spread and now enjoying unprecedented business boom.

First stop of the President's tour is Sorsogon province where she will have a chance at whale shark watching (called "butanding" which means big fish in the vernacular) in the fishing town of Donsol. Shark watching is a major eco-tourism activity that has earned for the Bicol town the tag "Whale Capital of the World." Time Magazine in 2004 ran a feature on the town titled "Beat Animal Encounter in Asia".

Sorsogon with its Donsol attraction and Camarines Sur with its wakeboarding center and the Caramoan beach and coves which hosted the global TV series "Survivor", are the two Bicol provinces reaping tremendous tourism arrivals and revenues.

Cebu tops the list of 14 leading tourist destinations in the Philippines, followed by Camarines Sur and Metro Manila in that order.

Camarines Sur, however, posted the highest growth last year with a hefty 117.25 percent, or from 721,024 local and foreign visitors in 2008 to 1,566,447 last year. Cebu had only 1.24 percent improvement, or from 1,596,238 in 2008 to 1,615,982 in 2009.

After Sorsogon, the President will fly to Palawan which boasts of the subterranean or underground river and the world-renowned Tubbataha diving reef, among other natural wonders. The capital city of Puerto Princesa, ranked 10th on the Department of Tourism list, posted a high 21.29 percent growth in tourist arrivals.

The Chief Executive then hopped to Cebu and Bohol to complete her tourism tour.

Briefing media men last Friday on the presidential tour, Tourism Secretary Ace Durano said Central Philippines accounts for more than 50 percent of the country's tourism industry.

He added that the Philippines' tourism sector remained afloat, while other countries suffered setbacks.

Government records showed that the country's tourism industry remained resilient, posting a 6-percent growth in foreign tourist arrivals in the first half of 2009 amidst an 8.5-percent decline worldwide.

A total of 3.14 million foreigners visited the country in 2008, compared to only 869,665 in 2000. Local and foreign tourists in the country's top destinations totaled 5.2 million from January to September 2009, representing a 17-percent increase from the 4.5 million in 2008.

The growth of the tourism sector despite global economic slump was traced in part to massive investments in tourism-related infrastructures in the Central Philippines Super Region since 2001. These included 42 airport projects, costing P27.31 billion; 108 ports constructed by the PPA, costing P8.76 billion, and 145 municipal ports, costing P1.23 billion; 8,783.07 kms of roads and 18,741 meters of bridges constructed, improved, and rehabilitated, costing P54.14 billion; and the P52.44-billion Southrail Project.

Complementing these was the development of other tourism support infrastructures and services including communications, banks and hospitals and health facilities. To address the energy requirements of Visayas, five power plants were commissioned in Central Philippines, providing power to almost all of the16,690 barangays in the region.

Private sector investment in tourism facilities in Central Philippines increased by 50 percent from P389.2 million in 2000 to P658.72 million in 2008. From 2001 to January 2009, 20 projects, mostly resorts and hotels, were registered with the BOI, costing P6.6 billion. At the same time, hotel rooms capacity in the Central Philippines increased by 16 percent from 8,046 in 2006 to 9,361 in 2007 while resort rooms increased by 41 percent from 2,780 rooms in 2006 to 3,917 in 2007. (PIA-MMIO) [top]

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