The Philippines expects to welcome at least 300,000 travelers from cruise ships this year - more than triple from 2023 - as the government prepares for their entry by building dedicated terminals in tourist sites.

Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) general manager Jay Santiago said the agency is working on accelerating the construction of dedicated terminals to facilitate the entry of cruise travelers around the archipelago.

'For the year, we are expecting 300,000 cruise tourist arrivals. For the first three months of 2024, we have achieved 44,000 already,' he said.

The earliest project PPA aims to finish is the cruise terminal in surfing hotspot Siargao. It is targeted to open as early as the third quarter as its completion will contribute to the growth of tourism demand in the Philippines.

Afterward, the agency plans to open the dedicated terminal in Coron, for foreign tourists inclined to visit Palawan.

Further, the PPA commits to establish similar facilities in various islands nationwide, particularly in Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur in Luzon; Aklan in Visayas; and Camiguin in Mindanao.

The Philippines was selected by the World Cruise Awards as Best Cruise Destination in Asia in 2023, beating India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

The country is experiencing a surge in passenger travel by sea. Last year, PPA recorded a 24 percent spike in passenger traffic to 73.61 million, from 59.19 million in 2022, lifted by the surge in sea travel during the holidays.

For 2024, Santiago believes that momentum is on the PPA's side in growing passenger numbers. For one, the PPA last week opened the new passenger terminal building of the Port of Batangas, the largest of its kind in the Philippines.

Santiago said the expanded terminal can accommodate around 8,000 passengers now, from 2,500 prior, increasing the annual capacity to roughly 14 million, from four million.

The PPA hopes to complete 29 projects within the year, including the expansion of the Port of Zamboanga, one of the most crucial ports in Mindanao.

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