MANILA -- To meet the growing demand for cruise lines in key Philippine destinations, a cruise port facility will be opening in Manila before the end of the Duterte administration in 2022.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Tuesday made this announcement during the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on the Manila Cruise Port Master Plan and Feasibility Study at Sofitel, Pasay City.

Signatories include Department of Tourism (DOT) Undersecretary for Tourism Development Benito Bengzon Jr., Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) Chief-Operating-Officer Pocholo Paragas, Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) President Arsenio Lizaso.

“Our goal is to build before the end of the President’s term,” Paragas told reporters in an interview.

Paragas said that the feasibility study alone will take 18 months to complete while construction of the facility will take more or less two years.

“I think that (port) will take roughly one and a half to two years after the feasibility study and then eventually let’s build the infrastructure around it—a mall, a multi-use facility will take years but at least those can follow,” Paragas said.

 “Our concern right now for the country is there’s no specific port specifically for tourism,” he added.

Paragas said that this port will mark the beginning of increasing international port calls in the country and the promotion of the Philippines as a cruise destination for international cruise lines. 

Moreover, he said that the new port is expected to alleviate traffic from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

“If one of the reasons we’re doing this is to alleviate stress from the airport I don’t think there’s a reason for us not to have a cruise port in Manila,” Paragas said.

He said that another reason why Manila was selected was it was the best place to “see the history of the Philippines.” 

“There’s Intramuros, the post office…there’s a huge market for that so we have to have this cruise people go there, see the history of the Philippines and look into our beaches,” he added. 

Asked if TIEZA will be considering tapping the private sector for the construction of a port facility, Paragas said that it will depend on the feasibility study.

“We’ll base it on the feasibility study but if government can fund it that will be the best. Once the feasibility study comes out, we’ll know the prices and then we will discuss with the economic managers,” the TIEZA chief said. 

Data from the DOT showed that international cruise calls to the Philippines have been growing at an average rate of 27.8 percent over the past years with 56 calls in 2014, 60 calls in 2015, and 72 calls in 2016.

This year, an estimated 140 cruise calls are expected in the Philippines by yearend mostly in Manila, Boracay, and Palawan due to Hong-Kong based cruise line Star Cruises’ Superstar Virgo having made Manila its home port last March 19 to May 23. (PNA)