LEGAZPI CITY — Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim said he wants a speedy completion of the Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA) in Barangay Alobo in Daraga, Albay to make Bicol a top tourist destinations in the country as well as support DOT’s target to double the number of foreign tourist arrivals.
“I will strongly recommend it to Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) as one of the top priority airports in the country,” said Lim during a forum of local government officials and public sector representatives at the St. Ellis Hotel over the weekend.
Lim said “Bicol is now third fastest growing tourism destination in the country today second only to Cebu and Boracay with new tourism come-ons like Camarines Sur Water Sports Complex,Caramoan Peninsula, Misibis Bay Resort and Donsol, Sorsogon”.
“No amount of selling will work with a good product like Mayon Volcano whose tourism attraction is limited to its eruption compared to developing new tourism products where tourists enjoy while engaging in an activity like whale shark interaction, wake boarding or riding an MTV to view the lava trail at the footsteps of Mayon Volcano,” Lim told the participants that include Donsol Mayor Jerome Alcantara,Legazpi City Mayor Geraldine Rosal, Tony Tan of Albay Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Henry Buban of Albay Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
With the new international airport, tourists anywhere in the world can fly easily to Albay to enjoy their time with less travel time in commuting.
“Our target is to double the number of foreign tourist coming to the country in 2016,” said Lim who lamented that the country is now ranked sixth compared to Malaysia,Thailand, Singapore,Indonesia and Vietnam.
The DOT said country’s annual foreign tourist arrivals is just three million despite its bid as a tourism destination since the ’70s.
Although the DOT’s role is recommendatory, Lim said government agencies, which implements large government infrastructure projects such as the DOTC in its impact assessment also “get points or inputs from us.”
For his part, Albay Govenor Joey Salceda said the government has already bought 82 percent of the private agricultural lands in Alobo and neighboring barangays for the P3.4-billion Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA).
Salceda said 32 percent of the construction of the runway and offices under Phase I has already been completed including 35 percent of Phase II has also been completed.
Salceda said P780 million has already been released by the DOTC September this year for the on-going construction.
“This new, modern international airport can boost tourism which is Bicol’s biggest potential where it enjoys comparative advantages,” Salceda said.
To be viable, Salceda the SLIA is now connected by a road network to and commercial centers and tourist destinations as far as Donsol. He said that more than 80 percent of the road network including bridges around the international airport has already been completed.
“Our Guicadale Economic Platform now is drawing private investments,” said Salceda, adding that with the threat of climate change intensifies as the years move on the private sector is now responding positively to our development guidance and should significantly lift the prospects of safe development in Albay.
Guicadale which stands for Guinobatan, Daraga, and Legazpi City where residents at risk in this areas will eventually settle at the new, safe and elevated economic hub of Albay with the airport’s completion.
“This is other half of adaptation mainstreaming- the first half is the integration of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) into public investments program and the other half is the participation of the private sector in disaster-proofed/climate-proofed development.”
Property developments have sprouted with Jaucian Village in Daraga reporting near 100 percent take-up and similarly in adjacent areas in Legazpi City.
“Raw land prices have leapt 10-fold from P50 per square meters,” Salceda said, adding that Bicol College will be establishing its campus in Anislag partly helped by the cash flows from our Albay Higher Education Contribution Scheme (AHECS) scholarship program.
The international airport sits on a 300-hectare land area and is slated for completion two years from now.