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PASAY CITY – The Philippine Airlines (PAL) is venturing into maritime business, and will soon launch a ferry service between Kalibo and Boracay.


"This is the first time that PAL is venturing into maritime business," said Jaime Bautista, PAL president and chief operations officer. "We chose Boracay as the first destination because there are many tourists there, especially foreigners."


Bautista added that PAL chose Kalibo because of its international airport, where tourists from China, Japan, and Korea come and go, compared with the smaller Caticlan Airport.


Currently, PAL has two vessels – the MV Malambing and MV Magalang – and Bautista said the ferry service might be launched in December, according to a PNA report.


"Originally, we planned to launch the ferry service last April. But Boracay has been closed for rehabilitation for six months," he said.


The two catamarans, each with 410 seats, were customized for PAL.


"We already had these (catamarans) delivered to us back in April," Jose Perez de Tagle, vice president for Corporate Communications, said.


PAL executives, including its chairman, Lucio Tan, tested the two catamarans on Tuesday.


If PAL's ferry service would "click" with the public, PAL might add other routes for this.


"We will think about the next routes, if there would be any, depending on the demand. Probably we'd have the next route in Cebu," Bautista told the PNA.


It took about two years to plan the new offering, the executive added.


PAL's ferry basically looks and has the vibe of its aircraft.


Bautista said anyone, even passengers of other airlines, would be allowed to book the ferry service.


There's no price yet for the ferry service, de Tagle said, adding that PAL will announce this once the pricing had been finalized.

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TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol – The Panglao International Airport on Panglao Island in Bohol will be inaugurated by November.


This was announced by Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade who said the inauguration could have been made earlier except that more testings and details were taken up by authorities


Meanwhile, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) spokesperson Eric Apolonio said the P7.8-billion project, also known as the New Bohol International Airport, features green and sustainable structures, solar panels, and motion sensor lighting, among others.


"This is the Philippines' first eco-airport," he said. 

Apolonio said the construction of the Panglao International Airport started on June 22, 2015 and the government plans to inaugurate it on Nov. 22, 2018.

"(The project) took some time to materialize, but the Duterte administration made sure to expedite this," Apolonio said.

Once completed, the Panglao International Airport will replace the Tagbilaran Airport, which has limited capacity for expansion and also due to operational safety concerns. 

The Panglao Airport also aims to cater to the growing number of tourists in Bohol, he added.

 Apolonio said the Tagbilaran Airport will no longer operate commercially once the Panglao International Airport becomes operational.

"(Currently), I have no idea if the airport will be used instead for general or military operations," the executive said.

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Delegates from the Zhoushan International Cruise Port and the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism, as well as officials of cruise lines and travel agencies, pose with SBMA officials during a courtesy call at the SBMA office on Monday.


SUBIC BAY FREEPORT – Plans are afoot to connect the Subic Bay Freeport, an emerging cruise ship destination in Southeast Asia, to the Zhoushan International Cruise Port (ZICP), which is one of the five major cruise ports in China today.


According to Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma, Zhoushan port authorities, cruise line executives, travel agents, and representatives from China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism visited here on Monday to look into prospects of connecting ZICP with Subic, along with Clark International Airport.


“ZICP targets more than 200 international cruises every year after opening their cruise port in 2014,” Eisma said. “Now they are looking at Subic Bay as their next target.”


She added that it would be logical for ZICP to connect with the Port of Subic “because the Subic Bay area is getting to be a popular cruise ship destination for Chinese tourists.”


Zhoushan, which is located in China’s Zhejiang province, is the only archipelago city in China and is considered the gateway to East China Sea.


Since its opening in October 2014, the ZICP became a departure point for cruises to Taiwan and other Asian destinations. Phase 1 of the ZICP development involved reclaiming land from the sea and building a berth for megaships. Total investment to date is reported at around $74 million.


Eisma said Subic could gain much from the proposed connection, as the Chinese cruise industry is expected to become bigger in the years to come.


“The link between Zhoushan and Subic would be mutually beneficial, since both areas have great offerings for cruise ship passengers and the potential to serve as jump-off points for other destinations in the region,” Eisma said.


“This could be the start of our version of a maritime silk road here,” she added.


At least 20 cruise ship arrivals have been calendared in Subic for this year, and some bookings have been made for 2019 and 2020. These include three arrivals each for the month of June, July and August this year.


Eisma said that another giant Royal Caribbean vessel, the Voyager of the Seas, has been scheduled to arrive here in August. Its sister ship, the Ovation of the Seas, which is the biggest cruise ship in operation in Asia, has called at the Port of Subic last June 8. (30)

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MAKATI CITY — Remember beauty queen-turned actress Gloria Diaz and her movie "Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa (The Most Beautiful Animal on the Surface of the Earth)"?


The movie made the 1969 Miss Universe title holder as well as the beautiful place where it was shot on location.


The place is the over 1,000-hectare Sicogon Island in Carles, Iloilo, which for a time was equally famous if not more famous than the island resort of Boracay in Malay, Aklan.


In fact, it was called the playground of the rich and famous in the 1970s and the 1980s well known for its 4.3-hectare lagoon and a 5-kilometer coastline with pristine ivory sand.


After several years of hiatus, property developer Ayala Land decided to do something and with a master plan Sicogon is being re-launched with its joint venture partner, the Sicogon Island Development Corp. (SIDECO).


The group targets to open the "new" island this summer with its airport runway, jetty port and resort accommodation of a tourism estate, optimistic on the sustained growth of the tourism sector.


Junie Jalandoni, ALI Senior Vice President and head of Commercial Business Group, said the first phase of the Sicogon Island Tourism Estate development includes the completion of infrastructure and bed and breakfast accommodation.


“The first phase is essentially completing the infrastructure -- the jetty, the runway and hopefully that will be operational by summer. We are opening 20 rooms (accommodation) in Sicogon by summer so it can be already available for guests,” he said.


Jalandoni said the cost to build the 20-room resort accommodation reached P100 million, as they target to construct additional 80 rooms within the year.


He further said the tourism estate project also includes retail and other resorts.


“We are planning a Seda Sicogon which will be 250 rooms. We are planning a retail area, we are also inviting other locators like hostels, bed and breakfast, a three-star hotel,” said Jalandoni.


“The country is actually in very good situation right now, attracting a lot of tourism activities. Very exciting,” he added.


Apart from becoming a premier tourist destination and a tourism hub for the region, the 1,100-hectare Sicogon Island in Carles, Iloilo is envisioned to provide inclusive growth and economic development through long-term recovery and livelihood programs and job creation.


ALI earlier estimated that the Sicogon Island development will provide 20,000 jobs either directly or indirectly with increased tourism, and about P1 billion in earnings for the community through business opportunities that will come from the retail and commercial establishments.

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BAGUIO CITY — The opening of the Pozorrubio exit of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union expressway (TPLEX) would further boost tourism in Baguio and the rest of northern Luzon, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said on Thursday.


Marie Venus Tan, DOT-Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) regional director, said: “It makes Baguio now much closer, it is more convenient for people travelling up north.”


The TPLEX connects the central and northern Luzon provinces to Manila via the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) and the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX).


The 10.1-kilometer segment of TPLEX in Binalonan to Pozorrubio in Pangasinan was opened last December 6, cutting travel time by about 45 minutes from Tarlac.


The last section of TPLEX – the 10.92-km road from Pozzorubio in Pangasinan to Rosario in La Union is set to be completed in June 2019.


Tan said that with the opening of the Pozorrubio exit and Saytan in Rosario, La Union, the entrance to Kennon Road is just 15 minutes away.


“It is not just Baguio that will benefit but there will also be a spill over towards Ilocos,” she said.

Tan added that Baguio’s boosted connectivity to Metro Manila also makes the city more attractive to investors, aside from the local tourists travelling even for the weekend. 

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TACLOBAN CITY — The Department of Tourism (DOT) is eyeing at least 5 percent growth in tourist arrivals in Eastern Visayas region with the launching of its Bring Home a Friend to the Philippines (BHAF) campaign.


DOT Regional Director Karina Rosa Tiopes said the campaign would greatly benefit the region considering the high number of overseas workers from Leyte and Samar provinces. 


Records of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) show that at least 40,655 people from the region’s six provinces are employed abroad.


“Our people abroad are just waiting for reason and right timing to bring home a friend. Through this campaign, we will show 365 reasons why we can invite tourists with pride,” Tiopes told reporters during the BHAF regional launch Monday night in this city.


BHAF was first launched in 1994, spearheaded by then Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor. It aimed at encouraging Filipinos to invite their foreign friends to visit the country.


The program revived by Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo runs, for six months from October 2017 to April 2018.


The contest allows Filipinos residing here and abroad as well as expatriates based in the Philippines to win prizes in the electronic raffle draw for simply inviting their foreign friends to come visit the Philippines.


Prizes to be won for “sponsors” (Filipinos inviting foreign friends) include an Eastwood Le Grand Tower studio condo unit (first prize), an orange metallic Toyota Vios 2017 Model (second prize), or PHP200,000 worth of gift certificates from Duty Free (third prize).


Meanwhile, prizes for “invitees” (foreign friends visiting the Philippines) include two roundtrip international business class tickets plus two roundtrip domestic tickets to Palawan (first prize), two roundtrip international premium economy tickets plus two roundtrip domestic tickets to Cebu (second prize), and two roundtrip international economy tickets plus two roundtrip domestic tickets to Davao (third prize).


To join, the sponsor and invitee must duly accomplish the registration via the BHAF microsite accessible via the DOT website or through the booths located at specific airports. Full instructions can also be found in the website.


The region is expecting a higher share of the BHAF to the 20 percent annual growth rate for both domestic and foreign guest arrivals.


Of the 3.23 million projected arrivals by year 2022, 81,936 of them are foreign and 3.15 million of them are domestic.


In 2016, the region welcomed 1.2 million guests, higher than the 1.09 million a year ago.


The region consists of the provinces of Biliran, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar, Samar, and Southern Leyte, and the cities of Baybay, Borongan, Calbayog, Catbalogan, Maasin, Ormoc and Tacloban, the Eastern Visayas' regional center.


These areas are known for dive tourism, nature adventure, historical sites, picturesque islands, biodiversity, and nature adventure.

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DAVAO CITY — There is no turning back for the city government and the private sector to push through with the 32nd Kadayawan sa Davao amid an extended Martial Law period in Mindanao. In fact, the city already started sprucing up city streets with colorful banners.


City Tourism officer Regina Rosa Tecson said there will be no cancellation of activities.


“Ever since we started planning we are already working hand in hand with the security sector,” Tecson said. “The security sector is helping us in the planning stage to ensure the safety and security of all our events.”


Tecson said the Kadayawan committee is intensifying the promotion of Kadayawan festival to encourage more tourists to come and witness the celebration of Davao’s culture and bounty harvest.


”The Kadayawan sa Davao is a celebration of the bounty harvest of the 11 tribes in the city,” she said.


Tecson said the city is confident despite the declaration of Martial Law extension tourist will still come and visit the city to witness the event. The negative perception of martial law in Mindanao has taken a toll on the tourism industry in the city.


Earlier, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said that the Kadayawan events will continue as planned despite the extension of Martial Law.


Duterte-Carpio earlier said that it would be interesting to celebrate Kadayawan under Martial Law and showcase the festivity of the city.


Public Safety and Security Command Center (PSSCC) chief Benito De Leon said security measures are now readied for the 32nd Kadayawan sa Davao slated on August 14 to 20.


De Leon said troops from Task Force Davao, Joint Task Force Haribon, Davao City Police Office and augmentation from Police Regional Office XI and 10th Infantry Division will be deployed in the city during the entire celebration.


CCTV cameras are also installed in strategic places to ensure the safety of the Davaoeños and local and foreign tourists who will join the celebration

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DONSOL, Sorsogon — More sightings of the whale sharks or “butanding” have been reported off the waters of Donsol in Sorsogon.


“There are now three to eight sightings reported daily,” said Maria O. Ravanilla, Department of Tourism (DOT) Bicol director.


Over the past several years officials have been noting a lesser number of sightings of the whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) in Donsol.


Ravanilla said it was less than five sightings during the past years with around one to two in 2014 and less than five in 2015 and 2016.


The dwindling number of sightings were first noted around 2012 and 2013.


In 2010, reports had said that as many as 15 to 18 “butandings” could be spotted at the water’s surface by marine tourist guides, who were officially tagged by the local government as butanding interaction officers.


Ravanilla said the warming sea water temperature spawned by global warming might have kept the whale sharks from surfacing.


She said divers had noted that the gentle giants of the sea have been going deeper and nearer the mantay ray bowl in Takdungan, which is in the boundary of Ticao Island and Donsol.


“2017 is a little bit better because it means the butandings are now able to adapt to climate change,” she added.


Ravanilla made the disclosure during the culminating activities for the week-long “Butanding Festival” that started last May 12.


She said the opening day of the festival showcased replicas of the “butanding” with 12 coastal barangays parading their life-sized versions from the shores of their villages to the town proper of Donsol.

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BAGABAG, Nueva Vizcaya — The Bagabag airport in Nueva Vizcaya has reopened allowing Wakay Air Services to officially launch its Clark-Bagabag-Clark inaugural flight, cutting a six-to eight-hour land travel into one hour and 45 minutes.


The inaugural flight along with send-off ceremony for some 37 maiden passengers of the flight was held at the Domestic Passenger Terminal of the Clark International Airport by Wakay Air Services and Platinum Skies, a carrier owned by former Ilocos Sur governor Luis “Chavit” Singson.


The Clark-Bagabag flight cuts the road trip to the world famous Banaue rice terraces in Ifugao and the Sagada caves in Mountain Province by several hours.


Tourism Undersecretary for Tourism Regulation, Coordination & Resource Generation (TRCRG) Alma Rita  Jimenez;  Frederick Alegre, Assistant Secretary for Office of Public Affairs, Communications and Special Projects (OPACSP), along with Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) president Alex Cauguiran attended the launch.


The Department of Tourism (DOT)  earlier announced the new route up north to the world-renowned Banaue Rice Terraces via Clark International Airport (CRK).


The Clark–Banaue (via Bagabag Airport, Nueva Vizcaya) flight officially started every four days weekly schedule on board a 38-seater Dornier aircraft operated by Wakay Air Services.


“Gone are the days where tourists have to endure long hours travel to reach Banaue Rice Terraces with Wakay Air flying every four days at Clark International Airport,” said Wakay tours president Jerry Cabalse on the sidelines of the Clark-Bagabag inaugural flight.


Cabalse said the opening of the CRK-Balabag flight was initiated by the Department of Tourism (DoT), and travel and tour operators who noted the growing demand from foreign guests, specifically Europeans, for trips to the country’s world heritage site in Banaue.


“Our foreign market, specifically Europeans who have encountered sad experiences – especially traffic – when they travel by land in going to the North was the main reason we have come up with the Clark-Bagabag flight,” Cabalse added.


Wakay Tours is partnering with local government units, Cabalse said. “It took us almost a year processing all the requirements and now we are inaugurating this Clark-Bagabag route.”


Cabalse said Bagabag airport is servicing not only Nueva Vizcaya but also the people of Quirino and Ifugao.


“From Bagabag, it will only take us one hour to reach the Banaue Rice Terraces by land, and from Banaue it will be an easy travel, and accessible going to Sagada,” Cabalse said.


According to him, a 31-seater Swift Air serviced the 28 maiden flight passengers. “They will stay there for four day, three nights or depending on the tour packages the travellers have availed themselves of.”


“We have patterned tour packages to sustain the load factor of Wakay Air,” said Cabalse.


The maiden flight is a partnership with DOT and private sector such as the tour operators which guaranteed Wakay Air of paid seats, from different regions in the northern part of Luzon.


At the airport, the Nueva Vizcaya Tourism Office hung banners featuring other interesting spots and events Bagabag is close to, such as Imugan Falls, St. Vincent Church in Dupax del Sur, the Ammungan Festival every May, and the Capisaan Caves.


One of the first passengers on the flight was Rep. Luisa L. Cuaresma of the lone district of Nueva Vizcaya. She traveled with the delegation from the Department of Tourism.


Governors Carlos Padilla of Nueva Vizcaya and Pedro Mayam-o of Ifugao graced the historic reopening of the airport with Undersecretary Alma Rita R. Jimenez of the Department of Tourism.


They were joined by Bagabag Mayor Johnny Sevillena and other mayors of Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya and Mountain Province towns.


“Business opportunities will multiply after this long-awaited resumption of flights. Ifugao is more aggressive in this move to reopen the airport, and they have been urging us to do something,” Padilla said in his speech during the opening ceremonies.


“Based on the statistics released by the local tourism office in Banaue, majority of the guests are Europeans. This is one of the markets that require a more convenient way to travel. So they want to visit the Philippines, the want to see the UNESCO world heritage site,” Cabalse pointed out.


Air connectivity, Cabalse explained, is a key expectation of foreign guests because they have come a long way just to see these sites in the north.


Round-trip tickets from Clark to Bagabag cost almost P10,000 or roughly $200.


Central Luzon DOT director Ronnie Tiotuico said he expects an influx of tourists going to the northern Philippines and vice versa with the opening of Clark-Bagabag route.


DOT executives and regional directors, and CIAC President and CEO Alexander Cauguiran also graced the launch of the inaugural flight.

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MANILA — Malacañang welcomed the continuing influx of foreign visitors in the country after the Philippines' hit a four-year high on foreign tourist arrivals.


“Foreign tourists chose to ignore the political noise and believe that it’s really more fun in the Philippines,” Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.


Abella noted that a total of 579,178 visitors were recorded in February or an increase of 27.81 percent over the past four years, adding that it is 5.36 percent higher than the same period last year.


Abella, meanwhile, assured foreign tourists that more improvements are to be expected in the country, noting the Duterte administration’s Build-Build-Build projects, which include tourism infrastructure such as airports, railways, and road networks.


“Millions of jobs will be generated in the transport and tourism sectors as we usher in the Golden Age of Infrastructure within the next five years. We therefore hope to make the tourism sector not only sustainable and competitive but also socially responsible to bring comfortable lives to all Filipinos,” Abella said.


Abella likewise lauded New York-based global debt watcher S&P Global Ratings’ stable outlook on the Philippines, saying that it resonates the satisfactory effects of the country’s policy in fiscal and debt metrics.


S&P expects the country’s Gross Domestic Product to grow annually by 4.9 percent or around USD 2,950 GDP per capita within the next four years.


“The stable outlook on the Philippine economy also shows that policies continue to provide a favorable environment for sustained growth,” he said, adding that the country’s “BBB” long-term credit rating reflects the country’s strong external position and adequate capacity to meet financial commitments.


In the same briefing, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Executive Director for ASEAN Affairs Zaldy Patron said the Philippines has successfully hosted the 30th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit over the weekend, noting that the leaders had a fruitful discussion on important issues in ASEAN.


Patron said the ASEAN leaders noted the bloc’s improving cooperation with China.


“They looked forward to the completion of a framework of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea by middle of this year, in order to facilitate the early conclusion of an effective COC,” Patron said.


“Whereas before, China and ASEAN Member States do not even want to start discussion on the framework of Code of Conduct. But under the Philippine chairmanship, we have seen a lot of movements in the discussion and China has already made an announcement that it’s also supportive of having a framework of the COC. So that is something that we would like to take advantage of. It’s a step forward to having a full and effective COC,” he added.


Patron meanwhile said the ASEAN leaders “expressed grave concern over recent developments in the Korean Peninsula.”


“They urged the DPRK to immediately comply fully with its obligations arising from all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions,” Patron said.


The 30th ASEAN Summit also saw the signing by the Leaders of the ASEAN Declaration on the Role of the Civil Service as a Catalyst for Achieving the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.


The declaration recognizes the significance of the civil service as the backbone of good governance and a catalyst in building the ASEAN Community.

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