MANILA—As the Duterte administration continues to pursue a thrust to build more infrastructure, a tourism official has urged Chinese investors to raise their stake in doing business in the Philippines.
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo made this call during a business forum held at the Grand Hyatt ahead of the “Belt and Road Forum”, the biggest diplomatic event in Beijing.
“I urge you to raise your stake on our country and be part of the dawning of a new era — the ‘golden age of infrastructure’,” Teo said before at least 17 key Chinese corporations.
“Now is the time to look at the Philippines from a different light, not just a place to visit and enjoy its destination, but a place to do business as well,” she added.
She said that the Department of Tourism (DOT) has already identified various investment opportunities and possible business partnerships across the country.
Among these are the redevelopment of the historic ‘Old Walled City’ of Intramuros, the proposed Philippine Travel Center, and the 49 ‘high-value assets’—six of which are operational, while the rest are classified either with masterplan or raw land—under the agency’s Tourism Infrastructure Economic Zone Authority (TIEZA) belt.
“With the ‘Build, Build, Build’ thrust of the current administration, tourism infrastructure ranging from airports, seaports to hotels are integral to cope with the booming Philippine tourism industry. We are prepared to offer both fiscal and non-fiscal incentives through our tourism enterprise zone (TEZ) model,” Teo.
Teo further said that it was the best time to invest in the Philippines because of closer relations between the Philippines and China following Pres. Duterte’s and Chinese President Xi Jin Ping’s historic meeting at the Chinese capital in October last year.
The meeting brought home USD 24 billion investment pledges, including a revitalized tourism development deal between the Philippines and China.
“This meeting ushers in a new chapter in our efforts to further heighten cooperation in tourism development between the Philippines and China,” Teo said.
Responding to concerns of Chinese investors on the Philippines’ “capacity” for the influx of international arrivals to the country, Teo assured them that it was being addressed.
She said that its medium term tourism infrastructure program of over Php 600 million for 2017 to 2022 allocated for airport, cruise ports, roads, railways, site infrastructure, and TEZs, including private sector investments of over Php 2.2 trillion on transport units and accommodation.
“Our numbers will speak for itself. We are hitting new targets with our continuing and sustained efforts. February of this year alone, tourist arrivals to the country hit a four-year high counting a total of 579,178 visitors, an increase of 27.81 percent since 2013,” Teo said.
Teo arrived in Beijing ahead of Pres. Duterte to join 29 other heads of state, governments, and international organizations, including Chinese President Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the “Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation” starting Sunday until Monday (May 15).
At present, China is the second largest trading partner of the Philippines, according to DOT Undersecretary Rolando Canizal citing the growing interest of Chinese investors to bring in tourism infrastructure projects to the country.