Friday, February 8, 2008

Durano: Cebu int'l airport needs to expand

Cebu City (8 February) -- Tourism Secretary Joseph "Ace" Durano bared the urgent need for the expansion of the Mactan Cebu International Airport in order to accommodate the increasing tourist arrivals coming to Cebu.

Durano in a recent forum said passenger traffic at the Cebu airport is growing over 20 percent year after year so the need to expand the airport and its facilities is very necessary especially as Cebu is the top favored foreign tourist destination in the country today.

Cebu leaders need to address this concern to sustain and accommodate the growth of the volume of passengers making Cebu the entrance and exit gateway of air travel, this is said.

Last year, of the total 3.09M foreign tourists that visited the Philippines, 748T came to Cebu which emerged as the number one vacation haven followed by Misamis Occidental with 526T visitors. Third most visited place by foreign travelers was Baguio City with 441T while Boracay came in fourth, the Department of Tourism (DOT) data showed.

The tourism chief said his greatest fear is that if this is not address and the bulk of tourist arrivals get bigger every year, the lapse of infrastructure development will certainly affect the tourism growth of the country.

Cebu can compete with Malaysia, Hongkong and Singapore as an international tourist destination but that it lacks direct flights coming in, disclosed the DOT secretary.

Durano meanwhile, disclosed that the downgrading of the country's international airports as not having met the safety standards of the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) will not affect US-RP air routes.

There are 58 flights per week from the Philippines to the US and vice versa with a total of 900T air seats a year while the DOT's 2008 target quota for American travelers is 640T US visitors, which makes it more than sufficient when it comes to capacity, according to Durano.

What is important is that there is needed government interventions in upgrading the country's international airports as we at the DOT continues to work with air carriers to include the Philippines in their flight destinations, Durano claimed.

Although Durano defended the Air Transportation Office (ATO) after receiving flak due to the FAA downgrade saying that the agency may not be good enough for the FAA standards but is good enough for other nations. "ATO needs to improve but it is not lousy," Durano pointed.

Durano on the other hand, expressed his dismay over the non-membership of the DOT in the proposed Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as its membership in the body is just logical.

Durano said he could not understand why the DOT was overlooked in the creation of membership and instead had members from the DOLE and the DILG in the proposed body.

In the national tourism bills, we are going to push for the amendment to incorporate the membership of the DOT in the proposed CAA, Durano stressed.

This coming October 21 to 25, at least 400 members of Congress from at least 100 countries around the globe will converge in Cebu for the 6th United Nations World Tourism Organization (WTO) Forum. (PIA-Cebu/FCR)

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