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Sunday, April 14, 2024

2023 budget for tourism road projects lowest since 2017

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THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has allocated some P15.7 billion for the construction of access roads and bridges to tourism destinations in 2023.

According to the National Expenditure Program for 2023 made available by the Department of Budget and Management, the largest budgets for tourism roads and bridges will go to Regions 5 (Bicol) at P2.25 billion, 13 (Caraga) at P1.62 billion, 12 (Soccsksargen) at P1.58 billion, and 7 (Central Visayas) at P1.15 billion. Region 9, or the Zamboanga Peninsula, received no allocation for said projects next year.

The DPWH has an ongoing Tourism Road Infrastructure Program (TRIP) with the Department of Tourism (DOT), which identifies the priority destinations that need infrastructure projects. Representatives of both agencies at the regional level then work on the possible projects and their details for discussion and endorsement to the regional development councils, which include private sector representatives.

Once passed at the regional cosultation level, the projects are then finalized at the central office of both agencies for inclusion in the next budget cycle.

Based on official documents, the TRIP funding allocation for 2023 is 8 percent less than this year’s P17.09-billion budget, and the lowest since 2017, which had a budget of just P12.33 billion. This year’s TRIP budget is supposed to fund the construction of 604 road projects. Funding for tourism infrastructure projects also account for just 1.31 percent of the DPWH’s total budget of P1.19 trillion in 2023.

In the DOT’s yearend briefing on Monday, Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco said, “We’re also working with the DPWH for purposes of our road infrastructure convergence program. The challenge that we faced at the beginning of the year, is that there are already continuing infrastructure projects that were already identified previously. And so our task has been to adopt due diligence among all our 16 regions as far as the other infrastructure needs of our destinations. We’ve compiled this list already, and we’ll be coordinating with the DPWH for purposes of inserting these infrastructure projects for the year 2024.”

As per the latest accomplishment report on the DOT-DPWH convergence program, 3,075.46 kilometers worth of tourism road projects have been completed as of April 2022, under TRIP funding allocations from 2016 to 2021. The largest TRIP budget was recorded at P30.91 billion in 2018, under DOT chiefs Wanda Tulfo Teo and Bernadette Romulo Puyat, and DPWH Sec. Mark Villar. The convergence program was initiated in 2015 by then Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. and Public Works Secretary Rogelio “Babes” Singson.

According to the NEP 2023, among the TRIP projects for 2023 include the construction of the Cagraray circumferential road in Albay, where Misibis Resort (Cagraray Island) is located; the Mandridejos-Bantayan Road, an alternate road to Cebu destinations including Bantayan Island; roads leading to several caves in South Cotabato, Sarangani province, and Agusan del Sur; a road leading to the Enchanted River in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur, etc.

Meanwhile, Frasco said the DOT is also working with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to improve the Wi-fi connectivity “in at least 94 destinations all over the Philippines, recognizing the trend of foreigners and even locals wanting to work from home and at the beach.” Both agencies signed a memorandum of understanding for this purpose.

At the height of the pandemic, the DOT promoted several tourism destinations like Boracay Island, as ideal work-from-home sites, with a number of hotels having strong internet connections that make them appealing for stays by digital nomads.

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