By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Maria Lourdes “Nancy” Binay has urged the government to strengthen the nautical highway and inland waterways to increase tourism growth in the Visayas and Mindanao.
Binay, who chairs the Senate tourism committee, said this is one of the things she wish to promote saying it is high time the government “makes use of our bodies of water as a mode of transportation.”
“Yung nautical highway, it’s high time that we develop it further and strengthen it upang lalo pang lumago ang tourism industry rito sa Visayas at Mindanao,” said Binay who is in Cebu for the blessing of a new ship owned by one of Cebu’s shipping companies.
“More destinations can be opened and easily reached in the Visayas and Mindanao through these initiatives,” she pointed out.
A good transportation network, she said, is key to such endeavor, especially since Visayas and northern Mindanao is teemed with top island destinations.
“Cebu is a hub for local and international flights, and by having more transportation options to complement the Cebu airport, tourists can be enticed to go to more destinations,” she added.
Binay noted that islands like Bohol, Siquijor, Camiguin, and Siargao have become alternative destinations with the closure of Boracay last year.
The senator noted that the country experienced a 7.65 percent tourism arrival growth in 2018, with 7.1 million tourists arriving compared to 6.6 million visitors registered in 2017.
Binay especially pushed for more modern investments in Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo) vessels and seaports.
“I truly believe that our waterways are underutilized, that’s why we need new Ro-ro vessels and more seaports that can handle these kinds of ships. We need more investors for these kind of projects,” she said.
Binay also noted there are plans to construct and rehabilitate seaports in the Visayas, which could be linked to Cebu, northern Mindanao, and other parts of the nautical highway.
“There would be more economic opportunities that would open and developed because of greater mobility and affordability,” she said.
The nautical highway, opened in 2003, uses a network of RoRo vessels and seaports to link different islands in the country.
Binay said that since the opening of the 919-kilometer highway, “people have travelled in it as an affordable alternative to flying, and opened access to numerous tourist destinations along its path.”