Former Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano on Friday reiterated his call on the national government to fast-track the construction of tourism-related infrastructure as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
In a radio interview, Cayetano said the government could take advantage of the reduced tourist arrivals and movement in the country to implement a massive tourism infrastructure program similar to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Build Build Build initiative.
‘’Since COVID-19 is still here, why don’t we Build Build Build in tourism-related areas? We have so many hidden gems. We have so many places that have yet to be explored. The problem is that the infrastructure is not yet there,’’ he said.
The former Speaker noted that neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, such as Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam, have long been investing in tourism-related infrastructure like facilities for artisan establishments and clean and accessible washrooms.
Cayetano said building tourism-related infrastructure and implementing mass vaccination would boost the country’s tourism sector.
‘’What makes us think that after COVID, we will suddenly be number one in tourism? But we can do two things, right? We should take vaccination seriously. Second, we should do all tourism-related infrastructure and best practices this year. When we reopen next year, the already alluring Philippines will be even more beautiful,’’ he pointed out.
Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country welcomed around 8.26 million foreign tourists in 2019, surpassing the Department of Tourism’s target for that year.
However, the figure is a far cry from Thailand’s nearly 40 million international tourist arrivals and Vietnam’s 18 million foreign tourists.
The tourism industry contributed 12.7 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product in 2019.