Teeming opportunities in maritime tourism

The development of the country’s coastal and inland waterways transport system is undoubtedly getting more exciting. It gained a strong boost following the announcement of the Department of Tourism to incorporate water transport operators in its plans to promote domestic tourism.

It can be recalled that President Bongbong Marcos has identified tourism among the industries that could help facilitate economic recovery as the nation emerges from the pandemic.

The department under Secretary Ma. Esperanza Garcia-Frasco is zeroing initially on 44 tourism circuits, two of which are in the National Capital Region. And it is quite interesting that both involve water transport operators, including ferry operators.

During the Convergence Forum jointly organized by the Maritime Industry Authority-NCR and the DoT-NCR, held at Winford Manila Resort and Casino in Sta. Cruz, Manila last 22 September, the two agencies invited shipowners, ferry operators, boat builders and other water transport enterprises.

We are glad the Philippine Association of Coastal and Inland Waterways Ferries Inc. was among invited, along with notable players in domestic shipping, namely Archipelago Philippines Ferries, Prestige Cruises and Magsaysay Transport, the operator Sun Cruises Inc.

DoT-NCR director Sharlene Zabala-Batin presented the department’s plans in the short term, highlighting the development of the two tourism circuits — the Metro Manila Hop-On, Hop-Off, and Manila Bay Cruising.

She explained that the HOHO concept was adopted from Singapore, London and California, where buses will bring tourists to various spots in Metro Manila where they will get off designated bus stops, such as in Intramuros, National Museum and other tourist places, to be picked up later by another bus.

Director Zabala-Batin wants the Pasig River ferry cruise being promoted by Marina-NCR to be connected with the HOHO loop. The development of the Pasig River transport system is being pursued actively by Marina under its 10-Year Maritime Industry Development Plan Program 3 (Development of CIWTS) to serve as template in helping reduce traffic congestion in Metro Manila.

Marina envisions its Pasig River initiative to be replicated in the country’s other urban centers where there are viable inland waterways. There are now ferry operators ready to participate in Marina’s project on the Pasig River.

More interesting for us ferry operators is the second tourism circuit in NCR. Zabala-Batin announced that DoT-NCR is pushing for the revival of several tourism products in NCR: The Manila Bay Cruise and the Cavite-Corregidor Island tour.

The DoT official added that there are also inter-regional tourism circuits where ferry operators can participate: The Sail and Stay Circuit (from Manila to Mabini, Batangas, including Verde Island diving spots) and the Drive and Dive Circuit (from NCR to Region IV-A to Region V dive spots, which are popular for their manta rays).

It is evident the regional director wants more ferry operators to partner with the department; she is inviting those present in the Forum to join these tourism circuits.

To further encourage their participation in tourism activities, Supervising Tourism Operations Officer Ivan Dmitriv Agote declared that all application fees for accreditation and other fees have been waived along with some documentary requirements just to jumpstart operations of water transport operators.

Not only that, the DoT offers other incentives to ferry operators once accredited. Those serving these tourism circuits may enjoy endorsement from the DoT to other government agencies, such as Marina, for permits critical to their operations, liquor ban exemptions for those with restaurants, and promotional support or advertising through DoT-related agencies, among other incentives.
Besides, the department made the application for accreditation very easy. We can be accredited even through online; no need to go to the DoT office.

We believe that these DoT initiatives are definitely a boon to us ferry operators.

With Marina complementing these tourism activities, through its MIDP Program 2, the Development of Shipping Services for Tourism Destination, there is no doubt, we, ferry operators stand to benefit from these teeming opportunities in maritime tourism.

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