The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) is embarking on port construction and development to accommodate cruise ships in the country as the Marcos administration eyes tourism as one of the economic plans to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
For a start, PPA General Manager Jay Daniel Santiago said there is an ongoing construction of a cruise terminal in Siargao while dialogues are ongoing for construction of more cruise ship terminals in some of the popular tourism sites in the country.
"There is an on-going cruise terminal construction that is being spearheaded by PPA in Siargao right now. So, we are about 80% complete there. That is a terminal that’s solely dedicated for cruise services," said Santiago.
He also disclosed that the port operations in Cabugao, Ilocos Sur were expanded in coordination with the local government unit (LGU) after it received a lot of cruise ship calls before the pandemic. The same is true with the Currimao Port in Ilocos Norte.
Santiago added that there is also an ongoing cruise terminal project in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan which is being handled by another government agency focusing on tourism development.
"In Boracay, we are in talks with the provincial government of Aklan for PPA to build a terminal that is solely dedicated for cruise operations. Not in Caticlan, but it will be somewhere else to really accommodate cruise ships," he revealed.
While port terminals for cruise ships are not within the realm of the PPA, Santiago said they have been coordinating with the Department of Tourism in order to maximize the tourism potentials in the Philippines.
In 2021, the Philippine travel and tourism sector made a significant rebound when it registered a $41 billion contribution to the country’s economy based on the report of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) in its latest Economic Impact Report (EIR).
The Covid-19 lockdown in the Philippines started in March 2020 and it resulted in the drop of tourism-related revenues to 80.7 percent, which means that in 2020, the Philippines only earned P17.8 billion from the travel and tourism sector.
But as restrictions gradually eased in 2021, the figure rose to $41 billion which represented a 10.4 percent share of the nation’s total economy.
Based on the WTTC report, the Philippine travel and tourism sector has been contributing an average of 22.5 percent of the total economy which translates to $92.6 billion in 2021.
This is the reason, according to Santiago, why there is a need to prepare the Philippines' port facilities for cruise tourism.
He then admitted that the Philippines is not ready for cruise tourism over the years due to lack of facilities that could accommodate them.
But some improvements were made along the way which resulted in the South Harbor accommodating cruise ships before the pandemic.
"We recognize the importance and potential of cruise tourism. There is really a tourism development plan by the DOT, and the PPA has been tapped and we have been in coordination with DOT even during the last administration," said Santiago.
"I think we will get there through the leadership of the DOT (Department of Tourism) and TIEZA (Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority). But considering that there is an influx, we cannot convert our terminals overnight."
"But we are trying to make do with what we have right now and we are trying to make sure that all cruise ship arrivals are well-handled," said Santiago.