The government has earmarked P14.4 billion out of the proposed national budget for next year for road projects meant to make tourist destinations accessible.
The proposed 2014 budget for tourism infrastructure marked a 20-percent increase from the P12 billion allotted this year, a report from the Investor Relations Office (IRO) showed.
Next year’s budget for tourism infrastructure will cover 167 kilometers of roads to be constructed and rehabilitated, all leading to various tourist destinations across the country.
The projects will be implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways.
The allocation of a higher budget for tourism infrastructure comes amid pronouncements that tourism will be one of the sectors to receive more government support in its bid to attain the Aquino administration’s job-creation and poverty-reduction goal.
Under the Department of Tourism’s medium-term plan, jobs in the tourism sector should increase from the projected 4.9 million this year to 7.4 million by 2016.
The share of tourism jobs to total employment in the country should also rise from the projected 13 percent in 2013 to 18.8 percent three years from now.
The government has a daunting poverty-reduction goal of reducing the proportion of Filipinos living below the poverty line from 27.9 percent as of the first semester of last year to just 16.6 percent by 2016.
It likewise has a goal of bringing down the unemployment rate to 6.5 percent by 2016 from 7.3 percent as of July this year.
The targeted number of jobs in the tourism sector is anchored on the objective of increasing the number of foreign tourists visiting the country to 10 million by 2016.
For this year, the government projects foreign tourists to hit 5.5 million.
Tourism has been identified as one of the government’s priority sectors, or those that have a huge potential to substantially trim down poverty by generating more jobs.
Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, also director general of the National Economic and Development Authority, earlier said that higher investments in tourism infrastructure should be one of the initiatives for job creation.
Other priority industries moving forward, he said, were manufacturing, business process outsourcing and agriculture.
Despite its rich natural resources and abundance of attractive sites, the Philippines lags behind most of its Southeast Asian neighbors in terms of tourist arrivals. Compared with 4.3 million foreign tourists that visited the Philippines last year, there were more than 8 million foreigners who visited Indonesia, about 22 million went to Thailand, and over 25 million toured Malaysia.
With the Philippine tourism sector’s big room for growth, the government banks on higher public investments to maximize the growth potential of the tourism sector.