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Modern PHL Airports to Lift Growth Higher

The tourism industry is one driver of economic growth that we should aggressively promote. Tourism directly creates jobs and significantly boosts the economy of a particular province or region.


Luring the foreign and local tourists to destinations such as Palawan, Bohol and Mindanao, however, will require modern gateways. The upgrade of our regional airports to international standards will hold the key to sustaining the tourism industry and dispersing economic activities for that matter.


The administration of President Duterte, fortunately, is moving ahead with the privatization of major regional airports in the country. As I’ve written earlier in this column, the upgrade of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Parañaque City and similar initiatives to enhance the capacity of regional gateways, such as Clark, Laoag, Legazpi, Cebu, Davao, Panglao (Bohol), Puerto Princesa, Iloilo, Bacolod and Laguindingan (Misamis Oriental), will fuel the growth in the countryside through the creation of additional livelihood opportunities.


Local and foreign tourists are easy to please as long as you offer them the amenities, such as clean toilets at the airport, a good road network to bring them fast to their destinations, convenient transportation modes, and reasonably priced hotels or accommodations.


The local tourism industry will register a more vibrant growth if we can build the infrastructure requirements of the sector fast, starting with the privatization of our regional airports. The Philippine air-travel market expanded 10 percent in 2018 from the previous year, as more international and domestic passengers traveled to different destinations across the country.


Data from the Civil Aeronautics Board recently showed that total passenger traffic increased in 2018 to 54.14 million from 49.18 million in 2017. Domestic passenger traffic, according to the CAB, reached 27.28 million last year, up 10 percent from 24.81 million in 2017. 


The airline sector is feeling the tourism boom. Cebu Pacific remained as the country’s leading domestic airline with 12.26 million passengers in 2018, up from 11.95 million in 2017. 


Philippine Airlines (PAL), meanwhile, was the No. 1 airline in the international market with 7.44 million passengers in 2018, up from 6.88 million passengers in 2017. Cebu Pacific came in second with 5.02 million passengers last year, up from 4.74 million in 2017.


The upgraded Mactan-Cebu International Airport confirmed the increase in passenger volume when it posted a 14.6-percent rise in passenger volume in the first nine months of 2018. The latest available data show that operator GMR Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. accommodated 8.6 million passengers from January to September, up from 7.5 million passengers it handled in the same period last year. Domestic passengers accounted for 66 percent of the total, while international passengers shared the balance.


The upgrade of Mactan-Cebu International Airport and its increased capacity to receive tourists has resulted in more flights coming in and going out. Sichuan Airlines increased flights to Chongqing, China, from four times weekly to daily starting in October, while PAL added more flights to Nagoya from three times to four times weekly.


Cebu Pacific, on the other hand, increased flights to Hong Kong from daily to 10 times weekly starting November 26, and flights to Tokyo Narita from four times weekly to daily starting December 1. Tiger Taiwan launched its Cebu to Taipei route with four times weekly flights on December 2. 


Thus, we must sustain our infrastructure buildup to catch up with the influx of foreign tourists. Data from the Department of Tourism show that international visitor arrivals hit an all-time high of 7.1 million in 2018, up 7.7 percent from the previous year, and in line with the medium-term target of 12 million arrivals by 2022.


The construction of new roads, railways and bridges to link towns and provinces, and the modern airports to be developed in our major cities will assure an inclusive economy—one that will give market access to nonurban centers and improve income in the countryside.