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UN sees tourism as means of easing tensions, attracting FDI

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THE PHILIPPINES can use tourism to ease tensions with China and attract foreign investment, a United Nations (UN) official said.

“Tourism is a driver of peace. That’s why this year we decided to launch UN Tourism for Peace, and basically what we desire is to promote how tourism can open borders, can open up (visitors to) new cultures,” UN Tourism Executive Director Natalia Bayona told BusinessWorld last week.

The Philippines is currently embroiled with China in a dispute over territorial waters, with recent flare-ups triggered by the Philippines seeking to fish in traditional fishing grounds and resupplying military outposts in the South China Sea.

She estimated the number of ongoing conflicts at about 60, while possible changes of government via elections also introducing a note of uncertainty in investment decisions.

In March, Philippine foreign direct investment (FDI) net inflows rose 23% year on year to $686 million, bringing the first-quarter inflows to nearly $3 billion, according to preliminary data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

On June 13, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced stricter rules for visas for Chinese nationals in response to crimes allegedly involving Chinese.

The Department of Tourism said China is the third-largest market in terms of visitors to the Philippines, with a 6.56% share of international arrivals, as of June 1.

Asked what can be done to promote tourism despite the tensions, Ms. Bayona said: “What we are going to do after the regional commission of Asia-Pacific with the Philippines is that we will start working on education, and we will start working on investment promotion.”

She added that UN Tourism also plans to create an academy that will upskill Filipino workers in gastronomy skills.

“We are working to create an economic framework that can help investors to come and invest in the Philippines. Next year, we will be able to launch officially the investment guidelines,” Ms. Bayona added. — Aubrey Rose A. Inosante

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