Cebu can make great strides as an “international hub” for travel and tourism if it can privatize the Mactan international airport and “market” itself as a hub to easily reach other tourist attractions in Boracay, Bohol and Palawan.
This suggestion was given with much enthusiasm last night by Manuel V. Pangilinan in a roundtable discussion in Makati with Visayas-Mindanao editors where he was asked about investment potentials in Cebu and other areas.
He compared Cebu to the success of Phuket, Thailand, saying the island of Mactan had the same potential in attracting tourists if only major infrastructure , like a third bridge between Cebu mainland and Mactan is built, and long-term planning is made.
“You need a master plan for the island of Mactan. Why cant you replicate what Phuket has done? It has its own international airport, it’s self-sustaining. It’s an island not even connected by causeway to Thailand itself and yet it has developed an ecosystem of restaurants, hotels, night markets , entertainment, so you don’t have to get out of the island.”
Pangilinan was asked about the meeting he had with Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia in Manila in May.
The two were briefly seen on TV watching a a basketball game of Talk n Text in the Araneta Coliseum, which spurred speculation about whether it had anything to do with Garcia’s announced plan to run for the Senate in next year’s election..
“No politics, to be fair to her,” he said “I’m not an expert in politics and I don’t want to delve into something I don’t know much about. We met in the lounge before the game and we talked about possible investments in Cebu. That was the first time I met her.”
Pangilinan told editors he was interested in bulk water supply and distribution (although another consortium led by Ayala and Manila Water eventually won the contract with the Province of Cebu to tap the Luyang river in Carmen town), and once looked into buying Chong Hua Hospital, which didn’t materialize.
But what he really talked about with Governor Garcia was a growth scenario for Cebu’s tourism based on what he said was the strong potential of Mactan island.
“I told her, ‘Gov , why not privatize the airport… build a light rail to the commercial center in Lahug so you bypass all the small roads. I think Cebu needs a third bridge,” he said.
Pangilinan yesterday presided over the annual PLDT annual stockholders meeting, where he talked about the telco’s investment in Digitel (Sun Cellular) and modernization plans that would pour in P38 billion in expanding its network this year and P67 billion in the three years up to 2013.
“Cebu has traditionally been a trading and commercial hub for the Visayas,” he told Vismin journalists later in the evening.
“You should confer that into a bigger hub for other things,” he said, adding that Cebuanos have admirable qualities of good business sense and creativity.
“So open your airports, it’s a better airport than NAIA,’ he said.
“Make a master plan of Mactan island so it can develop. If you have a master development plan that replicates what Phuket has done, that would be wonderful.”
Pangilinan said Cebu can be made a a hub for international traffic and tourism.
Its central location in the Philippines is an advantage by itself but infrastructure development must complement it.
“If I land in Cebu I should offer facilities to move you to Boracay and argue that I am closer to Boracay than Manila is, to Bohol… to Palawan. Yun dapt ang selling point,” he said.