Aksyon Demokratiko presidential candidate Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso on Friday held a dialog with the tourism sector in Cebu as part of his “listening tour” in the Central Visayas provinces as he prepares for his presidential campaign.
“I have come here to observe, listen, look at the Cebu experience and learn from it. And this is how it will be should I become president in 2022,” Moreno told a town hall meeting here of tourism workers in Moalboal, Cebu Province.
“All my decisions and plans of action will be determined by a thorough consultation with the people since the welfare of the people will be the heart of my presidency. People are important to my government,” he said.
Cebu Third District Rep. Pablo John “PJ” Garcia accompanied Moreno and his team as they went around the towns of Barili and Dumanjug before going to Moalboal, known for its world-class diving resorts and one of the biggest tourism areas badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
“I thank Deputy Speaker PJ Garcia for welcoming me here so I can learn first-hand how the tourism sector here in Moalboal was brought to its knees by the pandemic and how it rose up and got back to its feet so the workers can get back their jobs again and provide food for their families,” Moreno said.
Moreno praised the efforts made by Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, sister of Rep. PJ, in slowly opening the tourism industry here, which was on standstill for almost a year.
During the pandemic, Gwen also rolled out Sugbo Negosyo, a program to help small and medium-sized enterprises in the countryside through direct infusion of capital. This has been a hugely successful program and is now on its third round.
“Gov. Gwen’s Sugbo Negosyo is a brilliant and doable idea which is similar to what I plan to do when I become president. I would encourage local government units (LGUs) to help businesses, particularly MSMEs recover and sustain jobs and livelihood,” Moreno observed.
According to Moreno, LGUs could use the additional Internal Revenue Allotment they would have from the Mandanas ruling, like what he did in Manila through creative financial engineering.
“In Manila, I took a loan payable for 10 years and used as collateral the additional income in the Mandanas ruling for Build, Build, Build: build more housing, more hospitals, more modern public schools and many others that provided more jobs during the pandemic. Commerce revolved, many worked,” Moreno explained.
The tourism industry in Cebu contributed 35 percent or 2.86 million of the 8.6 million foreign tourists who visited the Philippines in 2019. This data is an indication that Cebu is the favorite destination of foreigners, and the province can be aptly called the “Tourist Capital of the Philippines.”
“Tourism has a very high 25 times multiplier effect in creating jobs, and most of the tourism industry workers are young people,” the Aksyon Demokratiko standard-bearer said.
“Cebu has contributed much to the GDP, but it seems it has been shortchanged in terms of budget allocation for infrastructure such as bridges that will connect the islands of the Visayas. Cebu deserves a better deal, and this will be realized when I become president,” Moreno added.
As early as August 2020, Gov. Gwen slowly and carefully began opening tourism in the countryside as many people who depended largely on tourism directly or indirectly were starving.
Despite the governor’s early opening of tourism, Cebu Province went on to sustain the longest Modified General Community Quarantine status in the country that lasted for 11 months.
“What Gov. Gwen did in Cebu can be a model to other local government units especially in those provinces wherein the tourism industry is a major source of livelihood. Life and Livelihood. That’s what I focused on in Manila. That is also my priority in the country when we prosper,” Moreno stressed.
Tourism has contributed 12.7 percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) with about 5.4 million Filipinos getting their livelihood from the tourism industry.
Under Moreno’s Bilis Kilos 10-Point Agenda for Governance, the building of tourism highways and development of tourism circuits will be prioritized along with the promotion of sustainable tourism and event-based tourism.
The Bilis Kilos platform of government will also target a three-fold increase in tourism by 2028, from 8 million foreign tourists in 2019 to 24 million after nine years.