DOT bares plan to make Puerto Princesa gateway to Phl

(The Philippine Star) Updated December 03, 2011 12:00 AM

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines – The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Thursday revealed a plan to make Puerto Princesa City a major international gateway for the Philippines.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., in a press conference here, said the move was triggered by the inclusion of the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) to the New7Wonders of Nature list, which would mean influx of tourists and opening of international flights directly to and from the province.

“With the PPUR’s success, Palawan and Puerto Princesa are now part of what will be the national tourism development plan,” Jimenez said.

He also announced that a new international airport would be built in the city in four years.

“Being an international gateway means that there should be a brand new international airport. The construction of the airport was already approved by NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority). The President himself ordered them to approve the plan,” he added.

City Mayor Edward Hagedorn, on the other hand, said the construction of the international airport will also help in improving access roads from the airport to PPUR.

He asked Jimenez if the DOT could conduct training and seminars involving those in the tourism sector.

Jimenez encouraged the local government and local business sector to prepare for the influx in tourist arrivals.

“PPUR will lead the way for the golden era of tourism in the country. Tourists are coming and we all have to prepare,” he said.

According to him, tourists from China, Japan and even Russia were already showing interest in visiting the country as soon as the PPUR was declared as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.

The DOT also revealed that they are planning to establish a centralized booking system for PPUR.

“We will make a computer program that allows a booking system that can be accessed by travel agencies all over the country or even abroad,” Jimenez said.

An automated booking system, Hagedorn said, would lessen if not totally eliminate the booking problems experienced by both tourists and PPUR management.

“Some tourists thought that when they ride a plane to Puerto Princesa, they could immediately proceed to PPUR,” he said.

Tourists who wanted to go to PPUR should first secure a permit from PPUR management.

Meanwhile, the top tourism official of Puerto Princesa has called on government to sustain the strides of the tourism industry in Palawan by settling the P240-million debt of the National Power Corp. (Napocor) with two independent power producers (IPPs) supplying electricity to the entire island.

Rebecca Labit, assistant city administrator and city tourism officer, stressed: “The city and the entire Palawan would lose all the tourists coming in droves to the island if President Aquino fails to provide immediate financial assistance and settle the obligations of Napocor to the IPPs.”

Labit also noted that the people of Puerto Princesa expect the President to bail them out “just as he extended his support to the campaign to the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR)... in the recently concluded New7Wonders of Nature (N7W) global contest.”

Her appeal comes in the wake of a feverish campaign by the city government and two business chambers in Palawan to prevent the power shutdown, since the IPPs operating in the island could not sustain their operations unless Napocor settles its debts.

Puerto Princesa is one of the country’s top tourism draws and hundreds of thousands of tourists continue to arrive in the city on the strength of PPUR’s victory in the N7W.

Palawan officials and business groups have also urged Aquino to use the proceeds of the Malampaya Fund to prevent the impending shutdown of power plants supplying the island with electricity. – With Jhelyn Andal-Rocha

Source: http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=754433&publicationSubCategoryId=63