'Philippines can be top cruise stop'

'Philippines can be top cruise stop'
SMX Convention Center.

MANILA, Philippines - In line with its drive to boost tourism, the Philippines should promote itself as a top cruising destination as it boasts 7,107 islands, most with pristine beaches and abundant marine resources. But first the domestic boat industry needs a big push from government.

Boat builder Angelo Olondriz raised the matter on Friday on the first day of Sea-Ex 2015, a three-day boat show and nautical lifestyle expo which ended on Sunday at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

"Why market one island, when you can invite people to see the country's 7,107 islands by being a cruising destination," Olondriz, Sea-Ex chair and president of Headsail Inc., said in an interview with the Inquirer.

Sea-Ex, a group of boat builders, partnered with the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines to organise the yearly event which showcased different types of watercraft from at least 70 local and foreign firms.

Olondriz said that with one of the longest coastlines in the world, the Philippines' potential as a cruising destination was huge. It could easily grow into a billion-dollar industry, but it remains untapped, he added.

Not focused

"Tourism and transportation would depend on how strong the boat industry would be. People are now realizing its massive potential. But the industry remains small. There's no way to know its size now because the government is not focused on it," Olondriz said.

He said the diving industry in the Philippines was booming, and a key component of that was boats.

In the Philippines, the boat industry is lumped together with the ship industry which builds massive passenger liners and cargo and oil tankers. Boat builders produce smaller leisure water craft.

Inclusion with the ship industry has made it difficult for boat builders to grow and become competitive, Olondriz said.

"The rules pertaining to the ship industry are what will kill us. We are different," he said.

It is the boat builders' wish that the government will realise the potential of their industry and provide incentives and reduce import taxes to allow the industry to grow.

Olondriz pointed to Thailand's boat industry that is now worth 1 billion baht after its government dropped importation taxes to zero 10 years ago. 

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