The Department of Tourism (DOT) moved to strengthen the position of MIMAROPA (Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) or Region 4B as a world-class tourist hub by making its diverse attractions more accessible and ensuring that the whole region is a safe haven for international and local visitors alike.
This developed as DOT Region 4B officials and representatives of at least ten air, and sea transport companies met last month at the DOT head office in Makati, and they agreed to work together to upgrade tourist services through accreditation and increased connectivity.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said opening new air routes is vital to the Philippines’ aspiration to become a tourism powerhouse like its Asian neighbors.
The private entities, including flag-carrier Philippine Airlines and four other airlines and five shipping companies, pledged to comply immediately with accreditation requirements. Transport services are considered “primary tourism establishments” that need accreditation, pursuant to Republic Act 9593 or Tourism Act of 2009.
With increased connectivity and accessibility, DOT Region 4B Director Danilo B. Intong said MIMAROPA’s emerging destinations will gain global attention now enjoyed by Palawan’s Puerto Princesa City, El Nido, Coron and San Vicente. Among the emerging destinations as fascinating as Palawan are Romblon, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, and Marinduque.
The region’s total tourist arrivals reached 2,547,047 in 2018, up by 22.97% percent from 2,071,244 in 2017. Bulk of the tourists visited Palawan’s renowned attractions like the Puerto Princesa Underground River, Tubbataha Reef, El Nido and Coron islands. Koreans, Chinese and Americans top the area’s foreign guests.
In response to DOT’s challenge to make the whole MIMAROPA region a major tourist hub, the transport companies assured they are planning to increase and expand connectivity, with the airlines and shipping lines adding more flights and opening new routes.
Cruise and nautical tourism is a very promising market niche in the region, Intong said.
The transport companies present in the meeting were Air Asia, Air Juan Aviation, Airswift Transport, Magnum Air (Skyjet) Philippine Airlines, 2Go Group, Montenegro Shipping Lines, Navios Shipping Lines, Starhorse Shipping Lines, and Starlite Ferries.
“We are elated as we share the renewed optimism over the continued growth of tourism industry, which proves to be a key economic driver that can help uplift the lives of the poor in the countryside,” said Intong.
The transport firms’ accreditation is not without incentives and benefits as shown by the success stories of DOT-accredited hotels and resorts who earned the Seal of Quality Facility according to DOT 4B’s Cecil V. Aranton.
With DOT accreditation, the transport service provider automatically becomes eligible for membership in the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), Aranton said.
Also on hand at the meeting to elucidate on the marketing efforts of the TPB for MIMAROPA were Mark Nicole Evangelista and Milo Oropeza.
During the meeting, the Philippine National Police (PNP) as represented by P/Lt. Col. Robin Sarmiento of the PNP MIMAROPA, assured the public that the region remains a safe haven for tourists, having one of the lowest crime incidence in the country.
Intong said providing training for additional tourist policemen is a continuing DOT program.
The DOT Region 4B is due to meet with authorities of the region’s airports and seaports, and land travel and tour service providers to tackle issues relating to tourism infrastructure to improve connectivity.