The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) air transport connectivity goal by 2020 is crucial for the Philippines to increase its tourist arrivals, but the country needs upgrade its airport facilities and establish more international airports, Transportation and Communications Secretary Manuel Roxas II said Monday.
The Philippines is doing its best to achieve air transport connectivity and upgrade key airports in the next three to five years to be on a par with its Asia Pacific neighbors for the regional aviation connectivity, Roxas told participants at the APEC 2020 air connectivity forum at Sofitel hotel in Pasay City.
"The convenient mobility of local and international travelers hinges on efficient, reliable and safe air connectivity," Roxas noted, saying the Philippines will improve airport infrastructure by encouraging investors under the Aquino administration’s public-private partnership (PPP) initiative.
The Philippines is targeting at least 10 million tourist arrivals or 1percent of 1.43 billion global tourists expected to cross international borders by 2020.
Air transport connectivity is crucial as the tourism sector is the fourth largest source foreign exchange for the country, next to semiconductor exports, remittances of overseas Filipino workers and business process outsourcing, said Tourism Undersecretary Daniel Corpuz in the same forum.
"The importance of tourism industry is underscored in certain directions where it can be used to attract investments, provide jobs in services sector, accommodation and platform for economic development in small villages,” the Tourism official said.
Corpuz, one of the panelists during discussions on the benefits of air transport connectivity, said tourism accounts for an estimated 5.7 percent of gross domestic product and 10 percent of the national employment rate. Airports
Key improvements at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1, which started last month, will be finished in 18 months, Roxas noted
"One of the biggest improvements is adding 50 percent more immigration capacity as recommended by our Changi airports consultant, the transportation and communications chief said.
“We are improving space and flow allocation and managed to find space for an additional 10 immigration counters," Roxas added.
Government has allocated P500 million to upgrade and build two Rapid Exit Taxiways to address runway congestion and minimize delays and boost flight handling capacity to 45 takeoffs and landings per hour.
Roxas said the NAIA Terminal 3 will be fully operational by early 2013. Government, he noted, is now negotiating with Takenaka Corp. — the original contractor that built NAIA-3 — for upgrade and repairs.
International airports are being built in tourist destinations across the Philippines.
The P4.6-billion airport in Puerto Princesa is expected to be visible in 18 months while the Laguindingan airport in Cagayan de Oro will be completed by end of 2012, the transportation and communications chief said.
Government is studying whether to relocate the P5-billion Bohol International Aiport to Panglao or expand the current airport facility in Tagbilaran.
Studies are also under way on the possibility of relocating the Legazpi airport because of its 10 percent yearly flight cancellations. “Studies on air flow and weather pattern are complete and will be decided in the next several weeks and then subsequently put out to tender," according to the transportation secretary.
PPP projects in the pipeline involve the design, construction, operations and maintenance of passenger terminal buildings in Cebu and Tacloban airports, he added. — VS