• Tourism needs infrastructure boost

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    Tourism will be the main driver of the country’s progress, but the country would not be able to generate more tourism arrivals because of lack of quality airports, mass transportation system and wider road networks, said Jose EB Antonio, Century Properties Group chairman and chief executive.

    Antonio told The Manila Times that the country needs to catch up fast in infrastructure and easier access to the country, as current numbers shows that the Philippines is growing fast but “still behind” neighboring countries in the region.

    “[We need to focus on] infrastructure, infrastructure and infrastructure. That is the way you can accommodate and attract [more tourists]and infrastructure comes in the form of an airport that can accommodate more flights—safe airport,” Antonio said, referring to the high potential of the tourism industry to help the economy grow in a “sustainable” and inclusive way.

    “We have the product, nice people, fine beaches, but the access to the product is not there,” he added.

    In Antonio’s “Making Metro Manila an International City” presentation during the 2013 CEO Business Leadership Series held at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Graduate School on Wednesday, he cited that tourism arrivals in the country would provide jobs to the lower sector of the economy, which will make growth inclusive.

    “We need to generate tourism arrivals in the country because tourists will give employment to the lowest sector of the economy. The waiters, the drivers, tricycle drivers—all of them will make money if there are tourists. Farmers would also produce more vegetables and fruits in the country. Tourism is the sector that we should tap without fail as soon as possible,” Antonio said.

    In line with tourism being a potential economic driver, he emphasized that the government should build more of the quality mass transport systems than selling more cars every year, which causes heavy traffic in the cities.

    “We are very much behind [with neighboring countries in the region]because we sell more cars every year. We sell 250,000 new cars a year but our road network has not been expanded. That is why there is heavy traffic every day,” Antonio pointed out.

    “[We should] relieve the traffic situation which is a very big problem here, we should create more mass transit systems. It is the solution because even if you have homes far from Manila, you can easily go to the city,” he added.

    One of the solutions that Antonio pointed out is the construction of the 22-kilometer Metro Rail Transit Line 7 (MRT-7) that will be under a public-private partnership arrangement between the Department of Transportation and Communications and San Miguel Holdings Corp.

    But the $1.2-billion MRT-7 construction—which is plotted to run along North Avenue, Elliptical Road, Commonwealth Avenue, Quirino Avenue and San Jose del Monte, Bulacan—is still subject to the confirmation and go signal of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and President Benigno Aquino 3rd, because NEDA is still requesting for project cost, scope and railway fares plan in comparison to the MRT Line 3 and Light Rail Transit Lines 1 and 2.

    Antonio said that if more mass transport systems like the MRT-7 are built, it would help improve the daily traffic situation in Metro Manila.

    Other than the mass transit system, Antonio also suggested that international flights be transferred to the newly built Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (NAIA-3) and that tourists would have “visa on arrival.”

    He explained that the modern NAIA-3 airport will give delight foreign tourists arriving in the Philippines, more so if they are served visas once they arrive. This would save tourists the time and trouble going of the consulate just to get visas, when in fact “tourists stay for no more than 15 days.”

    During the CEO Series, Antonio also said that government not only focus on being honest through transparency and accountability, but it should look more on how the country would gain economically.

    “[President Benigno Aquino 3rd] has the passion and the promise to the people that he will get rid of the graft and corruption in the country. And that is one of the reasons why foreigners are attracted in our country. But we have other issues like economic issues in the country which affect us. It is not enough to be honest; we should also be effective,” Antonio said.

    The CEO Business Series, a forum lead by UST Graduate School Professor Thomas Tiu, has featured chief executives from the fields of banking, investments, real estate and journalism, among others.

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