Press Release
March 10, 2012

"More fun" once air infrastructure problems are fixed

Sen. Ralph G. Recto yesterday said government should expedite the fixing of its air infrastructure once tourist-drawing projects come in full swing like the opening up new gaming complexes for foreign players.

"The air war must be won before we can claim victory on the tourism front," Recto, Senate ways and means chair, said

Recto said tourism potential from the opening of new casino complexes this year would be jeopardized with the unresolved issues hounding the local aviation industry.

At least two casino-hotel projects would commence operations in the next two years at the expanded Manila bay area where the new Nayong Pilipino Complex would be resurrected.

The estimated $20-billion development projects are expected to create new jobs, draw in tourist players from abroad and spur tourism growth.

Recto said concerns on lack of enough runways to handle big commercial flights, aging terminals, landing rights issues and the global howl on the country's solitary imposition of 3 percent common carrier's tax (CCT) "should be addressed very soon."

"Foreign casino players are not only expected to bet their money on the baccarat tables but also fall in love with the country by spending on shopping and dining while exploring the local sights," he said.

He said no air carrier would ship in tourist players if the country's air infrastructure remains "frozen in time" and "in legal and logistical disarray."

Recto said airport congestion could be initially addressed by temporarily diverting some domestic traffic to nearby Sangley Point in Cavite and Lipa airport in Batangas especially privately-owned light aircrafts.

He said the potential of NAIA-3 Terminal is being derailed by a long-standing legal issue that needs resolution while there should be refurbishing of Diosdado Macapagal airport as alternative terminal that could service wide-bodied airplanes.

"We don't start development of Clark as a full service international gateway from the point of view of changing its name," Recto said.

The senator said the removal of the 3 percent CCT via a legislative fiat should have been done "yesterday" to redeem the country from the blacklist of foreign carriers and usher in more tourist-bearing air lines.

The country remains as the only state that imposes a common carriers tax at 3 percent of gross receipts and 2.5% on its Gross Philippine Billings (GPB) on all cargo and passenger revenues originating from the country.

Such tax imposition has turned off many foreign airlines and shipping companies that some have dropped the country from its list of destinations. Recto said "it would surely be more fun in the Philippines if the air infrastructure is in place and more air lines come in."

"Our decision to welcome new casinos would be for naught if tourist arrivals are impaired because of an unreasonable tax and ill-equipped terminals with no runways to spare," he said.

He said government airport authorities may likewise look into the possibility of carving out a new world-caliber runway off Laguna Bay.

The country hopes to surpass its 3.7 million tourist traffic in 2011 by drawing 4 million to 5 million tourists this year and bringing it to 10 million in 2016.

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