Central Visayas tourism grows despite crisis
Siquijor registers biggest increase
by Rizalie Anding Calibo
Province of Siquijor (25 March) -- Though at a slower rate, tourism industry of Central Visayas managed to grow in 2009, says the Central Visayas Regional Economic Situationer of the National Economic and Development Authority Regional Office 7 (NEDA 7) during the RDC Full Council Meeting held Tuesday at the Siquijor State College, Larena, Siquijor.
The number of travelers visiting the region reached 2.2 million in 2009 which was 3.9 per cent higher than the number of visitors in 2008. Prior to the onset of the global financial crisis in late 2008, visitor arrivals in the region hovered in the double-digit level, the RDC briefing notes reveal.
With all the CV provinces posting increase in the number of visitor arrivals, Siquijor province registered the biggest at 16.7 per cent; followed by Bohol at 11.6 per cent; by Negros Oriental at 10.5 per cent; and by Cebu at 1.4 per cent.
According to the report, the growth of tourism industry in 2009 was largely driven by domestic tourism since foreign visitor arrivals started to drop in the second quarter of 2009.
This was so, not only because of the global economic crisis but also due to the threat of AH1N1 virus that discouraged many foreign travelers to travel starting March 2009, the report also said.
The financial crisis resulted in the rise of budget conscious travelers so that even companies adopted cost reduction measures on travel expenditures.
Industry players noted a drop in occupancy rates especially inexpensive accommodation facilities.
Occupancy rate of some major hotels in the region went down to as low as 50 per cent at the height of the crisis. Some hotels, however, started to experience better occupancy rates in the last quarter of 2009, the report added.
Korean tourists, which accounts for 25 percent of the total foreign travelers to Central Visayas, was 13.8% ower in 2009 than in 2008, but remained the region's top travel market.
This was attributed to the depreciation of the Korean won coupled with AH1N1 virus scare which prompted Korean travelers to be prudent with their travels abroad, the report noted.
Meanwhile, the Philippines' economic managers have projected a higher growth rate for the country this year amid reports of an economic rebound already being felt by various industry sectors despite the prolonged dry spell being faced by the country.
Finance Undersecretary Gil Beltran Monday told reporters that the country's growth rate of 0.9 percent last year was not bad.
"It's still positive," Beltran said, citing the global economic crunch that has hit major industry sectors and the natural calamities that hit the agriculture sector.
Beltran was among the speakers at the Yearend Philippine Economic Briefing and Press Conference at Cebu City Marriott Hotel hosted by the Investor Relations Office.
Amid the global economic crisis said to be the worst since the Great Depression, Beltran said fiscal spending was still contained, and the country's budget deficit was equivalent to just 3.9 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), the amount of goods and services produced by a country.
He said this ratio was not bad and is lower compared to that of neighboring countries, whose deficits are equivalent to an average 4.5 percent of their GDP.
But per capita income dropped because of the increase in the population growth rate to 2.1 percent.
Beltran said the country posted a good savings growth rate of almost 30 percent of the country's GDP.
"This means our banks have a lot of money to invest and the government can spur spending without much problem because it can issue Treasury bonds to the market," he said.
While major countries already feel the rebound in the economy, Beltran warned that one big countries with big populations like India and China start returning to their usual growth rates, these countries might push up oil prices, which can impact on the prices of basic commodities.
As the economy recovers, he said, the government aims to bring down the budget deficit to 3.6 percent of GDP this year.
The Finance Department will implement more effective tax administration measures, intensify collections of non-tax revenues, and tighten implementation of the ru7les and regulations of recently enacted revenue-eroding measures.
However, key challenges that may affect the growth of the financial sector this year include the El Nino dry spell, imminent power shortages and volatile commodity price movements.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Acting Director Zeno Ronald Abenoja said the inflation forecast for 2010 is within the target of 3.5 to 5.5 percent.
He said the country was able to survive the global crisis due to its "sound macroeconomic fundamentals?as evident in the favorable inflation environment and strong external payments dynamics ?and a sound and healthy banking system."
Abenoja said the country is positioned for self-sustaining growth with its strong gross international reserves, balance of payments and overseas Filipino remittances.
The average inflation rate of 3.2 percent last year, he said, was well within the target and lower than the 9.3 percent posted in 2008.
Key challenges identified by the BSPO include commodity price pressures and a surge in capital flows which could lead to problems in liquidity management and the timing of exit strategies.
Abenoja said exiting too soon could hurt recovery and exiting too late could lead to inflation and asset bubbles.
Although total government spending skyrocketed from P174.5 billion in 2001 to P1.4 trillion in 2009 and grew at an annual average rate of nine percent, Budget Undersecretary Laura Pascua said this was mainly due to finance infrastructure investments and social services.
This, she said, reflects the government's thrust of placing infrastructure high in its development agenda.
She said a huge budget was set aside for infrastructure and rehabilitation rather than settling debt obligations.
Agriculture Assistant Secretary Preceles Manzo said the department will continue investing in infrastructure and equipment to address the dry spell faced by the agriculture sector.
He said the department will also make more loans available to the farmers.
With the P48-billion budget last year, Manzo said the government constructed farm-to-market roads, marine culture parks, post-harvest and irrigation facilities: and provided organic fertilizers to farmers.
Manzo said the department will also take advantage of trade liberalization to boost the exposure of Philippine products to other markets. (PIA) [top]