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Philippines Tourism Lagging Behind its Southeast Asian Counterparts
Hefty Taxes Imposed on Airlines to Blame

By Llanesca T. Panti, The Manila Times, PhilippinesMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Sept. 15, 2010--DESPITE its vaunted richness in natural resources, tourist arrivals in the Philippines are lagging behind its Southeast Asian counterparts.

Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim made the disclosure during the House Committee of Appropriations budget hearing of the 2011 proposed P1.3-billion budget for the Department of Tourism held at the House of Representatives. Citing the Philippine Tourism department's records, Lim revealed that the Philippines only ranks sixth in terms of tourist arrivals in the region with 3.17 million, way behind Malaysia (23.6 million), Thailand (14 million), Singapore (8.7 million), Indonesia (6.4 million) and Vietnam (3.7 million). Lim attributed the situation to the country's limited access to source markets because of the hefty Common carrier tax, Gross Philippine Billing Tax and CIQ overtime charges that the Philippines imposes on foreign airlines.

"We are the only country in the world that implements this system. This forces the American and European airlines to withdraw their flights because they found better opportunities in other countries (of destination)," Lim told Congress.

Manila's lack of adequate infrastructure and tourist facilities, Lim noted, are also affecting its bid to attract tourists as shown with the inconsistent policy of the local government on issuing business permits and implementing taxes.

"We can't only rely on our natural endowment, beaches and warm hearts alone. Improve our basic way of delivering tourist from abroad. We have to raise our standards and improve our infrastructure," he added.

The Philippine tourism is still reeling from a huge blow that it suffered in the aftermath of the horrifying August 23 hostage taking of a tourist bus in the nation's capital that left at least eight Hong Kong tourists dead.

Making the road to redemption even tougher for the Philippines is the United States Federal Aviation Authority downgrading of Philippine airlines safety ratings to category 2 from category 1 in November 2009, which was followed by the European Union blacklisting of Manila's airlines also of safety standards concerns.

But despite the uphill climb, Lim remains optimistic even though his department's 2011 budget is lesser than 2010 allocation worth P1.388 billion. In fact, the Tourism department is aiming to double the number of tourist arrivals to six million a year by the end of President Benigno Aquino 3rd's term in 2016.

Moreover, the Tourism department is set to formulate a new National Tourism Development Plan, push for product diversification and management, identify destination development with focus to access and infrastructure, and facilitate capacity building on local tourism planning and data gathering as well as public-private partnership.

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To see more of The Manila Times, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.manilatimes.net.

Copyright (c) 2010, The Manila Times, Philippines

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