ADB commits financing for Philippine tourism hubs

A team led by ADB Country Director for the Philippines Kelly Bird and ADB Director for Urban Development and Water for Southeast Asia Vijay Padmanabhan (seated, second and first from left) met with Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat (seated, center) and senior staff from the Department of Tourism and other government agencies to discuss the findings from the joint ADB–DOT consultation visits to El Nido and Coron in Palawan. Congressman Franz Alvarez of the first district of Palawan and former Congressman Antonio Alvarez (seated, second and first from right) also joined.

THE Asian Development Bank (ADB) has opened its doors for the Philippines to boost and develop two of its infamous tourism hubs.

ADB said in a statement on Wednesday that it will lend support to the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) to develop El Nido and Coron in Palawan—two of the fastest-growing destinations with diverse marine life—into environmentally-sustainable tourist spots.

In particular, ADB said it will lend financing to the DOT to address the immediate need for vital urban infrastructure and services, such as solid waste management, drainage and sanitation, and clean drinking water in El Nido and Coron.

ADB also committed to help build the capacity of local stakeholders to protect and conserve healthy oceans and rehabilitate key biodiversity-based tourism sites.

The project is planned for delivery in the fourth quarter of 2020.

“This project is critically important for ADB because we share with the Philippine government the goal of seeing local economies thrive on an environmentally sustainable path,” ADB country director for the Philippines Kelly Bird said.

“Tourism, when managed properly, can be a catalyst for inclusive development that can lift residents of El Nido and Coron out of poverty,” he added.

For her part, DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said: “Palawan is known as the country’s ‘last ecological frontier’ and we want to ensure its rich marine ecosystem, particularly in El Nido and Coron, will be protected amid the rapid growth in tourist demand.”

The project is part of DOT’s Transforming Communities Towards Resilient, Inclusive, and Sustainable Tourism (TouRIST) Program, a coordinated effort by various government agencies and local stakeholders in partnership with multilateral development banks in implementing sustainable tourism development in the country.

To ensure tourism benefits local communities, ADB will also explore innovative funding to local business enterprises and community-based groups for skills and product development to improve the quality of services in El Nido and Coron.

A joint ADB and DOT team visited El Nido and Coron earlier this month to hold consultations with local government officials and local stakeholders as part of the preparations in designing the project.

Romulo-Puyat also formed a project steering committee composed of high officials from the National Economic and Development Authority, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, and the Departments of Finance, Public Works and Highways, Interior and Local Government, Environment and Natural Resources, Health, and Transportation.

ADB said it is committed to achieve a “prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific,” while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Last year, ADB committed new loans and grants amounting to $21.6 billion.