Politics

Marcos highlights tourism push in San Juanico Bridge switch-on event 

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OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. underscored his tourism push after he led the lighting of a 2.16-kilometer bridge, built in the early ‘70s, connecting the central Philippine provinces of Samar and Leyte.  

The P80-million San Juanico Bridge Aesthetic Lighting and Sound Project will significantly boost the tourism industry in Eastern Visayas, Mr. Marcos said in a speech at the event, based on a transcript sent by his office.  

“I look forward to the economic opportunities that will be stimulated by this, as well as other Spark Samar initiatives, in the near future,” he said. “I eagerly anticipate the assistance it will bring for the complete recovery of the tourism industry in the Eastern Visayas and nearby areas.”  

Eastern Visayas was among the country’s top five poorest regions out of 17, based on 2021 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).   

Samar posted a poverty rate of 33.9% in 2021, higher than the 29.2% in 2018. Leyte, the home province of Mr. Marcos’ mother, posted a 29.2% poverty rate, lower than the 31.1% in 2018. 

Mr. Marcos, speaking at a tourism industry event on Monday, said his administration recognizes the sector “one of the high potential drivers for the transformation of the economy” and assured full support to its development.   

Tourism arrivals in the Philippines hit 1.7 million as of Oct. 17, exceeding the target for the entire year, Tourism Secretary Maria Esperanza Christina Frasco said at the event.  

As the country faces global headwinds, the Marcos administration prioritizes the growth of the tourism sector along with manufacturing, agriculture, IT-BPO, and creative industries, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio S. Balisacan told a news briefing Tuesday. 

The tourism sector accounted for 12.8% of the Philippines’ economic output in 2019, or about P2.48 trillion.  

Tourism’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product fell to 5.2% last year due to international border restrictions prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.  

Domestic tourism expenditures, however, increased by a record 38.7% year on year to P782.51 billion in 2021, based on preliminary data released by the PSA. However, this was still significantly lower than the P3.14 trillion seen in 2019.  

On the other hand, tourism expenditures by non-residents declined by 79.2% to P27.62 billion from P132.59 billion in 2020.  

The share of inbound tourism expenditure to total exports dipped to a record low of 0.6% in 2021 versus the 2.9% share in 2020.  

Mr. Balisacan said possible recessions in developed economies and the Philippines’ economic partners would mean “weaker” tourism demand.  

Mr. Marcos, 65, said in his first address to Congress in July that he would boost tourism by improving roads and ports to give people easier access to tourism spots.  

Earlier this month, his office said the Transport department was tasked to develop Philippine ports to boost the country’s cruise tourism. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza