It is a great pleasure for me to see both old and familiar faces tonight.
The Republic of Korea has been the top source of tourists of the Philippines for six years running. That the Philippines is a choice destination among Koreans comes as no surprise: apart from proximity and the lower cost of quality living in the Philippines, many people are attracted to the myriad choices available at their fingertips when they visit the Philippines.
Another positive development this year was the signing of the new air services agreement between the Philippines and Korea during the first week of April, which has effectively increased the flights from 19,000 to 28,000 per week on both sides. The new agreement is in line with the Aquino administration’s liberalization of air rights. This is seen as key to the government’s target of increasing tourist arrivals to 10 million by 2016 from more than three million in 2010.
Which makes me confident that by the yearend, South Korea will not only stay on top of the foreign tourist market of the Philippines, but more importantly, will surpass the one million visitor target from Korea.
Of course, none of this will be possible without the relentless support of everyone in this room. Pres. Benigno Aquino has underscored the necessity of public-private partnerships in order to ensure the continuous progress and development of the Philippines. We need not look further than this room to find a steadfast model of excellent cooperation between the government and the private sector. Together, we fuel an industry that creates thousands of jobs, bolsters our economy and, on a greater plane, fosters mutual awareness and understanding between the Filipino and South Korean peoples.
Let me also take this occasion to congratulate the team of our hardworking tourism attaché, Ms. Maricon Ebron. The Department of Tourism in Korea deserves no less than the finest commendation for its dedication, focus and vision. The Department of Tourism is our direct link towards a productive partnership—between the public and private sectors; between the Philippines and South Korea; and between now and our common goal of a prosperous and sustainable future.
With its 7,107 islands, the Philippines offers diverse opportunities for both learning and recreation. From nature trips and sports activities to off-the-beaten paths that serve as enticing frontiers of discovery and exploration, the Philippines caters to a wide variety of interests. From excellent English teaching facilities to yearlong festivals that intimate an inherent richness of culture and history, the Philippines easily makes its way to the hearts of even the most seasoned travelers.