Theme Park Rising In Subic?

MANILA, Philippines - The $5-billion investment proposal to convert an area in the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) into a 'Sentosa-like' theme park that will consequently abolish the Subic Bay International Airport needs to be studied very closely according to an official from the Department of Tourism (DOT).

According to DoT Undersecretary for Tourism Planning and Promotions Daniel G. Corpuz, before converting the area within the vicinity of the airport to a theme park a feasibility study should be undertaken first.

"Personally, I'm not privy to the physical development plan of SBMA in terms of introducing theme parks. But as envisioned, the Subic Bay area has always been identified as a tourist destination, in fact right now, quite a number of attractions and tourist activities are already there. Having the Subic International Airport there is obviously a great asset," Corpuz said.

However, Corpuz explained that as per principle of development focusing on accessibility, especially via air, two international airports operating simultaneously within the distance of 60 kilometers is not really very logical.

"On the contrary, If they go through a long term planning process, two airports can very well serve Central Luzon in generating enough economic and leisure activities. There is a possibility that those two airports can co-exist," Corpuz said.

Likewise, tourism officers of seven provinces in Central Luzon gathered recently at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center (SBECC) to map out plans in promoting the region as a major tourist destination by highlighting idyllic white sand beaches, heritage sites and colorful festivals.

DOT Region 3 tourism director Ronaldo Tiotuico said the forum aims to gather tourism officers in 120 local government units (LGUs) in the region to discuss a unified strategy to promote Central Luzon as a major tourism hub.

"Two freeport zones in Subic and Clark are major assets that will contribute to plans of promoting tourism in the seven provinces of the region-Bataan, Pampanga, Zambales, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Tarlac and Bulacan," Tiotuico said.

In an interview, SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia said the investment proposal for SBMA conversion into a theme park is now at the economic cluster of the National Economic Development Administration (NEDA). The two year plan also awaits approval of President Aquino III.

Concerned business operators however said the proposal to convert the Subic Bay International Airport into a theme park pose will pose major hurdle to plans of provinces around the freeport to integrate tourism promotion programs and take advantage of the existing world class sea ports and airports in the former American military bases.

Also, SBMA is now being packaged for medical tourism targeted to a niche high-end market that prefers to arrive at the highly secured and FAA accredited airport.

The Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA) in the province of Zambales was used as a major facility of the American military bases. The SBIA is one of the international airports with International Aviation Safety certificates from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), International Air Transport Association and the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization.

The airport is also equipped with modern facilities that include a 10,000 square metre passenger terminal, two stearn jetways, a radar, GPS and Instrument Landing System, 9,000 foot runway and closed circuit television (CCTV).

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