The development of the bridge linking Davao City to the Island Garden City of Samal (Igacos) highlights the need to finally solve the island’s electricity supply problems with the expected increase of tourist arrivals.
“The bridge project from Davao to Samal Island is seen to increase tourist traffic given better travel access and shorter time to reach travel destinations. This development will certainly require stability of electricity in Samal Island given the increase in tourist arrivals,” European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP)-Southern Mindanao Business Council chairman Antonio Peralta said.
Ever since the Philippines entered the Global Tourism Body’s safe travel list during the COVID-19 pandemic, several tourist spots have been preparing to welcome visitors.
Among the limited number of sites generally opened to the public is Igacos.
However, Samal reported experience sporadic outages for the last several years.
“With the bridge giving better travel access and shorter time to reach destinations once it’s finished, tourism is expected to increase,” continued Peralta. “However, the island should look into other ways to stabilize its electricity, current sporadic, which could deter prospective tourists from visiting,” he added.
Samal Island currently receives power from a submarine cable connected to Davao City and a diesel powerplant.
Peralta said tourism establishments affected by unstable power supply are restaurants, convention and meeting facilities, and hotels.
“Visitors and guests are least likely to go into these places with unstable power supply. At this rate, tourism establishments will end up needing to resort to acquiring power generators to address power outages which adds to the cost of doing business,” he said.
According to Peralta, the upcoming bridge linking Davao City to Igacos is expected to increase tourist traffic once the project is completed. The bridge is expected to support the area’s economic rehabilitation.
“What the area needs, other than investments, is a long-term solution that can address a problem the entire island is experiencing,” he added. “What could help the situation is the upcoming bridge being built between Samal and Davao.”
Other initiatives to slowly aid in the area’s economic recovery are also underway. The agro-industrial hub Anflo Industrial Estate Corp. (AIEC) in Davao del Norte has also opened around 400 to 500 new jobs with its additional four locators which started their operations in September.
Direct flights between Singapore and Davao City are expected to resume soon.
“All this activity is attracting more people and entities into the area – investors, suppliers, tourists, and tourism job seekers. So, it may not be so farfetched to say there is the potential for the island to develop into the next major tourist destination in Mindanao for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions,” said Peralta.
Peralta noted that a reliable supply of electricity was regarded as a prerequisite to investments.
“Sectors interested in investment typically check to see if the area can sustain long-term development. Any type of instability lessens the value of investing in that area since the cost of doing business will just go up,” he said.
The continued development of Samal Island is seen to potentially attract more visitors as the island gradually opens up for more economic activities. The island received 1.3 million visitors, composed mostly of day tourists who visit the island on weekends, last year, and is expected to soon receive more.