Tuesday, February 23, 2016


        AKLAN—Vice-presidential candidate Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero has called on the public to use the power of social media to help the country become a top tourist destination.      
    Escudero made the appeal during a campaign sortie to Kalibo, Aklan, as he shared his observation on the Filipinos’ lack of “storytelling” skill that made the Philippines lag behind its Asian neighbors in terms of tourist arrivals.
    “Our own Boracay beach and other lesser known beaches in the country are far more beautiful compared to Bali Island in Indonesia. But, it seems that we lack stories that say so,” he said.
    Even though the number of tourists visiting Boracay Island has been steadily increasing in recent years, it still pales in comparison with Indonesia’s top tourist draw Bali Island, which is visited by over 3 million tourists yearly.
    Boracay drew 1,560,106 visitors last year, 769,560 of which were foreign nationals.
  Thus, Escudero urged the public to help the government make the Philippines more appealing in the eyes of foreign tourists by being “good storytellers” of the country’s colorful history and awe-inspiring tourist destinations like Boracay Island on social media.           
    “The white and powdery sand beaches of Boracay Island may be far more beautiful, but it is the stories and anecdotes that tell how breathtaking Bali’s beaches are, which drive people to visit the place,” he stressed.
      According to the Department of Tourism, the Philippines had 4.27 million visitors in 2012 and 4.68 million in 2013. Visitor arrivals increased to 4.83 million in 2014, with the biggest number—461,383 and 487,654—arriving in January and December, respectively.
     Last year, 5.36 million international tourists visited the Philippines but the figure was still just over half of the DOT’s five-year target for 2016 of 10 million arrivals.
 The veteran lawmaker encouraged the public to post more pictures and share stories about the Philippines’ colorful heritage, rich cuisines, awesome sceneries and adventure on social media.
     “We could help generate interest to our country just by sharing stories, legends and traditions of our own localities. The T’nalak weaving in Koronadal, South Cotabato, for example, has a very interesting story to tell—that only those who have a pure heart and conscience are granted the dreams that help T’boli women craft unique designs,” Escudero pointed out.
 “These are the stories that we should take pride in and share to the world through the use of new media and the Internet,” he added, in reference to the hand-woven traditional cloth made from abaca and pineapple fibers which feature intricate designs.
       In ILOILO, Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero said accelerating the expansion of the booming business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in Iloilo could drive it to become the “next wave city” because of its ability to create more jobs and generate revenues for the local government.
    Escudero, who was in Iloilo with his presidential running mate Sen. Grace Poe and senatorial candidates under Partido Galing at Puso for their second visit to the Visayas since the official campaign began last week, said that hosting more BPOs will boost real estate, housing and private consumption.
    The country’s BPO indutry targets a revenue goal of $25 billion for this year and is expected to create 1.3 million jobs all over the Philippines.
“We should capitalize on these opportunities provided by the booming BPO industry to create new urban centers in the country. Doing so will not only help redistribute business investments, but also decongest our main urban center that is Metro Manila,” Escudero said.
    Escudero lauded Iloilo for posting a notch higher in the 2016 Tholons Top 100 Outsourcing destinations around the world, from 91st place in 2015 to 90th this year.
     Manila ranked 2nd in the list while Cebu came in 7th place. Others were ranked as follows: Davao, 66th; Metro Laguna, 81st; Bacolod, 85th; Dumaguete, 93rd; Baguio, 94th; and Metro Clark, 97th.
    At the same time, Escudero called on the local government to step up its game in assisting the BPO industry in Iloilo to ensure that it remains a key economic growth driver in the city and the entire province.
    The veteran lawmaker emphasized the need to disperse the city center away from Manila, citing the list of the “next wave cities” identified by the Department of Science and Technology-Information and Communications Technology Office (DOST-ICTO) together with the IT-Business Process Association of the Philippines (iBPAP) in 2012.
     The list identified the potential sites of ICT hubs outside Metro Manila based on “worker supply, telecom infrastructure and other factors necessary to sustain a local BPO industry.”
    Aside from Iloilo City, also identified as the “next wave cities” are Baguio City, Davao City, Dumaguete City, Lipa City, Metro Bulacan (Baliuag, Calumpit, Malolos City, Marilao and Meycauayan City), Metro Cavite (Bacoor City, Dasmariñas City and Imus City), Metro Laguna (Calamba City, Los Baños and Sta. Rosa City), Metro Naga (Naga City and Pili) and Metro Rizal (Antipolo City, Cainta and Taytay).
    “The government can use the list as a guide to create new city centers all over the country. The idea is that Metro Manila would be like an old town surrounded by suburban centers all over the country,” Escudero said.
      To realize this, he said, the government must put in place the necessary infrastructure that would translate to more opportunities outside the nation’s capital region.
     “We should start putting together the blueprint for this. Our people outside mega cities deserve to experience genuine inclusive growth. They should not be left behind,” he said./MP

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