Tourism Budget for 2014 Targets 10 Key Clusters

THE funds for the P30-billion Tourism Development Program under the proposed P2.3-trillion national budget for 2014 targets 10 strategic tourism areas in the country, according to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.


Dubbed “international tourism gateway clusters,” these are: Laoag, Ilocos Norte (including Pagudpud) and Vigan, Ilocos Sur (with 373,000 underemployed and 172,000 unemployed among the local population); Central Luzon, which covers Subic-Clark-Tarlac-Corregidor, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Bulacan, the Zambales coast, Bataan coast and inland, and Aurora (505,00 underemployed/384,000 unemployed); Metro Manila and Calabarzon region—Metro Manila, Nasugbu-Looc-Ternate-Cavite Coast, Laguna de Bay, Batangas peninsula, Quezon coast and islands (894,000 underemployed/466,000 unemployed);

Bicol—Camarines and Catanduanes, AIbay-Sorsogon-Masbate (780,000 underemployed/148,000 unemployed); Palawan, which covers San Vicente-EI Nido-Taytay, Princesa, Southern Palawan Busuanga-Coron-Culion (282,000 underemployed/55,000 unemployed); Central Visayas—Cebu, Negros Oriental, Siquijor and Bohol (605,000 underemployed/224,000 unemployed); Western Visayas—Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Aklan, Antique, Capiz and Guimaras, (659,00 underemployed/212,000 unemployed); Cagayan de Oro Coast and Hinterlands—Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental and Bukidnon (556,000 underemployed/95,000 unemployed); and the Davao gulf and coast—Davao City, Samal island, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental (335,000 underemployed/119,000 unemployed).

“For 2014-2015, [these] international gateway tourism clusters will continue to be the focal areas for public investment support because of the need to complete the international airports and access roads in these clusters,” said Abad in his National Budget Memorandum 118, dated April 25, 2013.

Most of these international gateways also have poverty incidences reaching as high as 48 percent among families as recorded in the first half of 2012. This is true in in the case of Davao Oriental, followed by Negros Oriental (45.3 percent), Masbate (44.2 percent), Bukidnon (43.3 percent) and Lanao del Norte (42.5 percent), as per said memo.

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Of the proposed Tourism Development Program Budget for 2014, a DBM source said some P25 billion will be allocated to improve market access, connectivity and destination infrastructure for the tourism destination clusters, such as the construction of and improvement of 679 kilometers of access roads (P14.5 billion), 40 airports (P9 billion) and ports (P543 million). About P4.5 billion will be allocated to boost the development and marketing of competitive destinations and products, while P523 million is for the development of the tourism work force and improvement of the safety and security of tourists.

Said tourism budget is equivalent to 0.22 percent of the local economic output as expressed in the gross domestic product, the source added. The Tourism Development Program was prepared using the “program budgeting approach,” a system where government agencies coordinate to implement projects and achieve certain targets under a specific program.

Abad told the BusinessMirror that the “program budgeting approach,” which was started during the 2013 National Budget process, is important because it “allows us to orient, as in the case of tourism development, infrastructure and non-infrastructure [e.g., Technical Education and Skills Development Authority training, State Universities and Colleges curriculum, promotions, Customs-immigration-quarantine services] programs toward a common objective.”

He added that this method is “especially useful since we have already identified 10 tourism zones. This way we maximize government resources and agencies don’t operate like separate, unrelated silos.”

Separately, in his memo, Abad said the first year of the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) had been successfully implemented in 2012 with foreign visitors reaching 4.3 million, up 10.25 percent from 3.9 million in 2011. Tourism receipts also rose some 27 percent to $3.8 billion in 2012, from $3 billion the year before.

He said in 2012, visitors stayed an average of 9.6 nights, up from 8.04 nights in 2011, while each tourist spent an average $894 per person, compared to $739 the year before.

“Hence, the pursuit of the following strategies will need to be continued for the tourism industry to reach its employment and growth-inducing potentials: a) improving market access, connectivity and destination infrastructure; b) developing market-competitive products and destinations; and c) strengthening human resources and the culture of convergence and excellence,” he stressed.

The Aquino administration hopes to attract 6.8 million foreign tourists in 2014, up 24 percent from the 5.5 million targeted this year. By 2016, at the end of its term, it projects 10 million foreign tourists, and 56 million domestic travelers.

Under the NTDP, it also sees the tourism sector as among the key drivers of the economy, with its contribution to the gross domestic product rising to 8.1 percent in 2016, from 5.8 percent in 2010, and direct employment increasing to 6.5 million in 2016 from 3.6 million in 2010. The NTDP is the Aquino administration’s strategic blueprint to achieve its tourism targets.

Visitor arrivals in the first five months of 2013 increased 10.54 percent to 2.01 million from 1.82 million in the same period in 2012.- Business Mirror