The Philippine Star

With an estimated P1 trillion needed in the next five years to achieve its goal of 12 million tourist arrivals and P4 trillion in revenues by 2022, the Philippine government together with the private sector is banking on its tourism enterprise zones (TEZs), among others.

Ten areas have been identified in the National Tourism Development Plan of 2017 to 2022 as TEZs that would show how the country’s tourism efforts would promote inclusive growth through employment generation and economic development.

No, the famed Island of Boracay is not included in this list since it is already over-invested, and happily is doing its sunshine-and-white-sand best to bring in foreign and local tourists to spend oodles of money while vacationing away.

Each of the 10 TEZs would have its own distinct masterplan that would indicate areas where investors would be willing to participate. Fiscal incentives could be regarded as attractive, which include income tax holidays, a 5 percent gross income taxation rate, tax and duty free importation of capital investment and equipment, transportation equipment and spare parts, goods and services, special responsibility incentives, and net loss carry over.

Note that non-fiscal incentives include allowing the employment of foreign nationals and granting of special investors resident visa to them, permission for foreign currency transactions, exemption from requisition of investment, and allowed lease and ownership of land.

Of the 10 TEZs named in the national tourism development plan, five of them are considered flagship (meaning, with major government interventions), and the remaining five as private.

Pilot flagship TEZ

You may have already heard that the first flagship TEZ that would become a sort of pilot model for other similar areas in the Department of Tourism’s list is San Vicente in the northwestern side of Palawan Island, about 190 kilometers away from the capital of Puerto Princesa.

San Vicente had been considered for its white sand beaches, coral reefs, islands and islets, waterfalls, vast forest cover, mangroves, and varied endemic flora (habitat for 23 of the 25 wildlife species found in the island of Palawan).

Think El Nido when you talk of San Vicente, albeit a rawer version of the famous Ayala resort when it was built about three decades ago when sustainable eco-tourism were new buzzwords in the tourism industry both globally and locally.

The masterplan for the 883-hectare San Vicente was awarded to Palafox Associates, but an association will oversee the major stages of development according to the masterplan.

Among the infrastructure that will need investor support, aside from the obvious roads, highways, lodging and accommodations, are a sewerage and treatment plant, modular docking, telecommunications facilities, power as well as water distribution. A flood mitigation component is also included.

San Vicente can be regarded as a greenfield tourism development project that will transform a sleepy town of about 31,000 people into a world-class international beach destination and bring employment and revenues never been imagined in its 45-year history.

Flagship TEZs

The other four flagship TEZs named were Rizal Park (yes, kilometer zero in Manila), Mt. Samat in the Province of Bataan, Panglao Island in the Province of Bohol, and Bucas Grande in the Province of Surigao del Norte.

The first three are in different stages of development, the oldest in existence being Rizal Park, followed by Mt. Samat, and lastly Panglao Island. Bucas Grande can be considered another virgin development similar to San Vicente’s.

I t would be interesting how Rizal Park will be transformed such that it would become a major tourism drawer significantly contributing to the country’s tourism effort. Admittedly, Rizal Park could do with some professional help to make it more relevant to Filipinos and foreign tourists.

Mt. Samat in Bataan is also a crowd-drawer especially among Filipinos who want to revisit the valor that our ancestors displayed during the Japanese occupation of the country. There are a number of interesting places to visit in Bataan, and perhaps with a well-thought-out masterplan, would put in again in the travel map of local and foreign tourists.

There is, of course, Panglao Island, which has its masterplan already but needs more committed investors for a number of major projects that will be able to lift it to world-class standard as a destination for foreign tourists.

Private TEZs

The private TEZs chosen were Ciudad de Victoria in Bulacan, Bravo Golf Resort in Dumaguete City, Hijo Resort in Davao, Queens Castle in Cebu, and Resorts World, City of Manila.

Ciudad de Victoria is a mixed-use area that is intended to integrate residential and office buildings as well as shopping, entertainment, leisure, education, and a business and sports complex. This is owned by the Iglesia ni Cristo, and has the Philippine Arena, regarded as the largest indoor arena in the world.

The second phase of Ciudad de Victoria includes the construction of Eraño G. Manalo (EGM) Medical Center, an 11-storey first class modern hospital, the New Era University Bocaue Campus, and additional hotels and residential developments.

Bravo Golf Resort is a fledgling business of Edilberto Bravo of U-Bix Corp., who is also the head of Bravo Golf Corp. Hijo Resort in Tagum, Davao aims to transform this agricultural city into a tourist destination in Mindanao.

Another golf destination, this time in the Visayas, is Queens Castle in Medellin, Cebu. A five-star hotel, housing facilities, wellness centers, and restaurants are part of the masterplan. Resorts World, of course, is now a part of one of the fastest growing tourist and gaming destinations in Metro Manila – Entertainment City.

The Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, the DOT’s implementing arm for the TEZ initiatives, will have its hands full in the next few years to get the necessary investments that will build up the flagship TEZs to become truly world-class destinations.

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