TOURISM Secretary Wanda Teo over the weekend made a strong pitch for more Chinese investment to boost cooperation in tourism development between China and the Philippines.
“Now is the time to look at the Philippines from a different light, not just a place to visit and enjoy its destinations, but a place to do business as well. I urge you to raise your stake in our country and be part of the dawning of a new era—the ‘golden age of infrastructure,’” Teo said before Chinese investors at a business forum held at the Grand Hyatt in Beijing.
Teo wooed 17 key Chinese corporations, harping on President Rodrigo Duterte’s massive socioeconomic agenda dubbed “Dutertenomics,” which aims to pursue an unprecedented P8-trillion nationwide infrastructure development program to help sustain the Philippines’ economic growth momentum in the next six years.
“With the ‘Build, Build, Build’ thrust of the current administration, tourism infrastructure ranging from airports, seaports to hotels are integral to cope with the booming Philippine tourism industry. We are prepared to offer both fiscal and non-fiscal incentives through our tourism enterprise zone [TEZ] model,” she said.
Teo’s impassioned call for Chinese investments identified various investment opportunities and possible business partnerships across the country, zeroing in on, among others, the redevelopment of the historic “Old Walled City” of Intramuros, the proposed Philippine Travel Center, as well as the 49 “high-value assets”—six of which are operational, while the rest are classified either with masterplan or raw land—under the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) Tourism Infrastructure Economic Zone Authority (Tieza) belt.
She also underscored Manila’s warming relations with Beijing following President Duterte’s and Chinese
President Xi Jinping’s historic meeting at the Chinese capital in October 2016, which brought home $24 billion in investment pledges, including a revitalized tourism development deal between the Philippines and China.
“This meeting ushers in a new chapter in our efforts to further heighten cooperation in tourism development between the Philippines and China,” Teo added.
Meanwhile, DOT Undersecretary Rolando Canizal pointed out that China is the second largest trading partner of the Philippines, noting the growing interest of Chinese investors to bring tourism infrastructure projects to the country.
One common concern among Chinese investors present at the forum was the Philippines’ “capacity” for the influx of international arrivals to the country and foreign direct investments in the tourism industry.
However, Teo assured them of the DOT’s relentless efforts to increase the country’s capacity, disclosing its medium term tourism infrastructure program of over P600 million for 2017 to 2022 allocated for airport, cruise ports, roads, railways, site infrastructure, and TEZs, along with private sector investments of over P2.2 trillion on transport units and accommodation.
“Our numbers will speak for itself. We are hitting new targets with our continuing and sustained efforts. In February of this year alone, tourist arrivals to the country hit a four-year high counting a total of 579,178 visitors, an increase of 27.81 percent since 2013,” she added.
Teo said, “With the bureaucratic reforms, strong private sector consensus, and a more level playing field in the country’s tourism under the auspices of the newly approved National Tourism Development Plan [NTDP 2016-2022], your investments are assured to propel the industry as major economic driver for inclusive growth, greater connectivity, and infrastructure development.”
Teo arrived in Beijing ahead of President Duterte to join 29 other heads of state, governments, and international organizations, including Chinese President Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the “Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.”