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Philippines` sustainable growth benefits tourism

The previously poor image of the Philippines is now being challenged as current President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s economic reforms, as well as her strong stance on crime and corruption, has…

The previously poor image of the Philippines is now being challenged as current President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s economic reforms, as well as her strong stance on crime and corruption, has transformed the country into a thriving democracy which is welcoming foreign visitors with open arms and a uniquely Filipino sense of hospitality.

Philippine history has been marred by economic difficulties which have prevented Asia’s only English-speaking country from truly capitalizing on its significant tourism advantages.

Under the Arroyo administration, the Philippines enjoyed a sustained positive growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross National Product (GNP) since 2001, with GDP up from 3% in 2001 to 5.4% in 2006, and a GNP growth increase of 2.7% in the same time period. Inflation, a major impediment for many developing countries, remains low in the Philippines at 2.6% as of February 2007.

Within the last year, the country saw a continued reduction in unemployment, with 900,000 new jobs created as a result of government, a figure the Arroyo administration was able to accomplish annually since 2001 (an annual average of 897,000 versus the previous administrations yearly average of 134,000). Nine out of 10 working age Filipinos are now employed.

The stock market is back to its historical high levels as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) reached US$2.35 billion in 2006, up from the previous year’s US$1.85 billion, and greatly exceeding the US$2 billion projected for 2006.

“The most important result of President Arroyo’s economic achievements is the elevation of Filipino citizens’ well-being,” said Emma Ruth Yulo, Director of the Philippine Department of Tourism in New York.

Health insurance has been made available for 24 million poor Filipinos, up from 1.5 million in 2000. The Philippines has also seen a dramatic reduction in the cost of medications (45% of Filipinos now consider medicine cheap, as compared to 11% from a 1999 survey).

On the education front, a more than 60,000 classroom shortage has been eliminated thanks to the administration’s firm commitment to the country’s school system. For example, the textbook to student ratio for English, science and math is now one to one, versus the problematic one to five recorded in 2000.

With the rapid development of the economy and controlled inflation, President Arroyo was able to increase per capita income by 30% for the poorest Filipinos, and increase food production with special hunger mitigation and food delivery logistics programs to feed the needy. One such example, the Gulayan ng Masa program, has benefited nearly 500,000 households.

Approximately 5.5 million Filipinos were lifted out of poverty due to the administration’s programs and policies, while the wealthy were forced to become more accountable with strict tax collection and anti-corruption policies.

Corruption has often plagued less-developed countries, but under the current administration, important measures have been taken to eliminate this problem, including the doubling of the budget for ombudsmen, with which the government was able to hire an additional 200 investigators and 43 prosecutors. As a result, 57 officials were dismissed from office from Jan. – Nov. 2006, including a Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) assistant commissioner, two internal revenue examiners and two customs officials.

An intensified campaign against street crime has resulted in a 27% decrease from Jan. – Oct. 2006, in addition to a proud 84% street crime resolution rate. In fact, the Arroyo administration has neutralized more than 500 known crime syndicates, arresting 1,249 criminals.

An additional 24,529 wanted persons were arrested during that same period, including 96 from the country’s Top Most Wanted Persons list. President Arroyo has been applauded for fulfilling her promises to fight crime and corruption by aggressively removing criminal elements which subtract from the peaceful nature of the country and its pious culture.

“While these matters are not directly tied to tourism, they are instrumental for improving the Philippines’ image among prospective travelers, and will help us ensure a safe and worry-free vacation for those interested in experiencing the truly hospitable nature of Filipino people,” noted Yulo.

Another major boon for Philippine tourism is the government’s current P2.4 trillion budget for infrastructure developments to be implemented from 2006-2010, which will be increased by nearly 60% per year until 2010.

Several projects have already been completed, including the Maasin RoRo Project in the Central Philippine province of Leyte (known for its annual reenactment of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese during WWII), the Passenger Terminal Building in Lucena, Quezon (located by the Luzon Urban Beltway in Metro Manila), and the El Nido-Taytay section of the El Nido-Bataraza-Rio Tuba Road Project in Palawan (a paradisiacal eco-tourism destination of growing popularity).

The expressway from Clark International Airport to Manila has also been completed, reducing travel time to less than an hour. This is part of the larger Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway project, which will provide direct and efficient road connections between major development areas in Central Luzon. The Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway project has been given an expected completion date of November 2007.

The President has also aggressively pursued air liberalization in line with her vision to make the Subic-Clark corridor the most competitive international service and logistics hub in Southeast Asia. As affirmation of the President’s efforts, the Philippines saw a 110% increase in international traffic from 2005-2006, with a 74% increase in international passenger flights during that period.

Theodore Koumelis
Co-Founder & Managing Director - Travel Media Applications | Website

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.