Senator Sonny Angara has urged the government to prioritize tourism growth in the country which he said is an effective way to provide jobs for Filipinos.
Angara has also joined calls to increase the tourism budget as the proposed allocation for the Department of Tourism (DOT) was reduced from the current year's P3.6 billion to P2.4 billion for 2017.
Of the total P2.4-billion budget, P300 million would be allotted for branding, which is a huge drop from the P1.1 billion in 2016.
DOT Secretary Wanda Corazon Teo explained that the department still have unused funds from this year's allocation that can fill the budget gap next year.
"Our country has so much to offer--we have the world's best islands--and I think we haven't advanced Philippine tourism as much as we should in order to attract the same number of foreign tourists, or even more, as our neighboring countries," Angara said.
The senator lamented that while visitor arrivals in the country continue to rise, with a total of 5.36 million foreign visitors in 2015, this only accounted for 1.9 percent of the total international tourist arrivals in the Asia-Pacific region, based on the latest data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
The Philippines falls far behind its Southeast Asian neighbors--Thailand with 29.9 million foreign visitors last year or 10.7 percent of the total Asia-Pacific region international tourist arrivals; Malaysia with 25.7 million foreign visitors (9.2 percent); Singapore with 12.1 million foreign visitors (4.3 percent); Indonesia with 10.4 million foreign visitors (3.7 percent); and, Vietnam with 7.9 million foreign visitors (2.8 percent).
The DOT said it is targeting 6.5 million foreign tourists arrivals in 2017, and up to 12 million foreign visitors by 2022.
"We must realize the potential of the tourism industry as a major economic driver and job generator for the country. There's still so much room for our tourism to grow," said Angara, one of the authors of the Tourism Act of 2009 which helped gear the Philippines not only as a premiere travel destination but also as an investment haven for domestic and foreign investors.
Source: Philippine Information Agency