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DOT secretary Berna Romulo Puyat goes ‘Build, Build, Build’
Interview by DOM GALEON
SOARING TO NEW HEIGHTS The control tower at the Mactan Airport

Most people rarely see the bigger picture. Such is the nature of being human. Our day-to-day activities preoccupy us in such a way that we tend to be absorbed by them. We do things one step at a time. We solve problems one concern at a time. And that’s not such a bad way to live, really.

But when this singular way of living gets applied to the manner by which we see the world, we tend to fail to appreciate the larger view of things. The bigger picture is lost on us. This, perhaps, has been the fate of many government projects and it applies particularly to the “Build, Build, Build” program of the Department of Public Works and Highways today. We see the construction. we see the little inconveniences caused by road closures due to ongoing development. We see the expenses that come with this development. But we often fail to recognize the impact of such a program—an impact that extends even beyond the roads built, the bridges repaired.

To appreciate the impact of the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program, we spoke with Department of Tourism secretary Berna Romulo Puyat on how infrastructure projects benefit the country’s tourism industry.

How does infrastructure development push the growth of tourism in the Philippines?

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The massive infrastructure development program in the Philippines serves as a major anchor for the development of many industries in the country. Tourism is one major beneficiary with airports, seaports, roads, and transportation systems identified as priority projects.

The development, expansion, and upgrade of gateways in major destinations address long-term issues on capacity. For instance, opening international airports in Mactan, Cebu, and Panglao, Bohol in recent months has further strengthened the position of Central Visayas as a major tourist destination in the country.

Ongoing developments at the Clark International Airport, the Legaspi International Airport, and upgrading plans for Davao, Kalibo, Iloilo, Puerto Princesa, and Laguindingan airports augur well for providing greater access and connectivity to popular and emerging destinations. A convergence program between the DOT and the DOTr called “Leveraging Infrastructure Prioritization for Airport Development” or LIPAD prioritizes airport development, expansion, and upgrade among the 85 airports in the country.

Meanwhile, the “Tourism Road Infrastructure Program” (TRIP) of the DOT and the DPWH is a successful convergence in developing roads leading to tourist destinations. The program has so far earmarked at least P108 billion in improving access to sites and attractions in destinations all over the country. Thanks to this program, there has been growth in business and investments such as in accommodation, F&B service, and tourist transport all over the country.

Which of the Build, Build, Build projects are you most excited about?

The “Build, Build, Build” projects function as a sound network of infrastructure development. To see them all through will be a delight. New airports will not just bring in more tourists to our country but to other previously hard to access places, as well. Better and safer roads will also ease traveling by land from one destination to the other, thus increasing domestic tourism while assuring inclusive growth among newly connected communities.

The ‘Build, Build, Build’ program has its fair share of critics. How would you explain to critics the importance of this program?

The “Build, Build, Build” program of the national government is a concerted effort among agencies toward sound and timely development of infrastructure projects that are expected to optimally impact productivity and overall economic growth. This approach will help the country leapfrog to being an economic power.

How many years do you think will it take for the Philippines to be a top tourist destination? How much development would that entail?

We would like to anchor our growth targets primarily on our current performance, especially since we are shifting focus on sustainability and redirecting programs toward global standards and quality. The time frame to achieve our goals may vary and even take a back seat when it comes to protecting the integrity of our environment. What matters most is achieving the results the right way.

If you were given the chance to make a development blueprint for the country, how would it look? What would you include? What would you prioritize?

Given the chance, our broad strokes would focus on sustainability, resilience, and inclusivity. We want to develop resiliency and sustainability in our destinations and ensure that strong public and private engagement would promote inclusive growth.


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