Over 100 cruise calls in PHL scheduled this year — DOT

MANILA-- The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Friday revealed that total of 117 cruise calls with an estimated 86,000 passengers are scheduled to dock in the Philippines this year.

DOT Asst. Secretary Maria Lourdes Japson did not mention the schedule for the calls but named the ports of Manila, Puerto Princesa, and Boracay as the most visited for mid-sized and large ships.

The islands most visited for expedition cruises, meanwhile, include Coron, El Nido, Romblon, Kalanggaman, Limaswa, Cebu, Bohol, Hundred Islands, Siargao, and Camiguin.

"The growth of the cruise industry in the Philippines is remarkable," Japson said in a press conference in Pasay City noting that cruise calls in the country recorded an average of 52.5 percent in the last five years from 2012 to 2016.

Japson, meanwhile, welcomed the recent announcement of Hong Kong-based cruise line Star Cruises to have a three-month homeport deployment of one of its lines, SuperStar Virgo, to Manila for the first time.

The 900-cabin SuperStar Virgo will be having a six-day, five-night cruise from Manila, to Laoag in Ilocos Norte to Kaohsiung in Taiwan to Hong Kong, and back to Manila from March 19 to May 23.

Passengers can avail of an early bird discount of USD490 per person for cruise departures on March 19, 24, and 29, 2017; third and fourth persons can avail of an additional 50 percent off, USD245 per person excluding port and gratuity charges.

Star Cruises President Ang Moo Lim said that Filipino passengers can enjoy the cruise visa free with "almost unlimited baggage allowance"

At present, the Cabotage Law or Republic Act No. 10668 allows foreign vessels to transport and co-load foreign cargoes for domestic transshipment and for other purposes.

Japson said that the DOT together with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is currently looking at relaxing regulatory rules on visa requirements as part of its cruise tourism development strategy.

She further said that this move would be "timely" especially since the agency is exerting efforts to support and fast track regulatory and procedural reforms to enhance cruise-related facilities and infrastructure.

Last year, DOT also rolled out a National Cruise Tourism Development Strategy (NCTD), which identifies the Turquoise Triangle that links Manila, Boracay and Puerto Princesa and other cruise destinations, to attract the interest of cruise lines.

DOT said that tourist arrivals in the country via cruise ships could grow as much as 15 to 20 percent with the new Manila terminal. Currently, 99 percent of tourist arrivals enter the country by plane and the remaining one percent enter via cruise ships.

Cruise tourism remains one of the priorities under the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) 2016-2022.

"We are excited to witness and become part of more milestones and firsts that Star Cruises will undertake in the country that will definitely be a pioneer for future cruise programs to the country," Japson said.

Star Cruises is the first-ever global leisure cruise line to homeport in Manila.

Operating since 1993, Star Cruises has a fleet of six vessels including SuperStar Virgo, SuperStar Libra, SuperStarGemina, SuperStar Aquarius, Star Pisces and The Taipan. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency