AT least 14 tourism road projects worth P888.6 million were included in the shortlist of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) convergence program for the next year.

The 14 road projects, with a combined length of 48 kilometers, passed the reevaluation of Tourism Road Infrastructure Project Prioritization Criteria for approval of the national technical working group.

Tourism department regional director Karina Rosa Tiopes said that number of visitors and presence of accommodation facilities were highly considered in their revised list submitted to the national committee last week.

“This can be a challenge to us. There are things that we need to start doing. We have to do something to improve the site. People will still go there because of tourism assets in an area even if the road is bad,” Tiopes said.

The regional convergence team earlier identified 41 road projects, but some fell short of criteria in the recent preliminary assessment of the national body.

Prioritized for national assessment are areas with existing travel and tours; tour guides; transport services; and facilities for meetings, incentives, conferencing, and exhibitions. These businesses are considered as primary tourism enterprise.

“Most of the projects approved by the regional convergence team in cities because of the presence of these primary tourism enterprises,” Tiopes added.

DPWH assistant regional director Edgar Tabacon said that road should come first before as a basic infrastructure requirement in tourism promotion.

“How can we attract visitors of the area has poor road access?” Tabacon asked.

Identified in the shortlist are the P18-million worth rehabilitation of Pomponan Road leading to San Antonio de Padua Parish Church in Baybay City, Leyte; P48-million slope protection and improvement of road to San Juanico Bridge in Tacloban City; P45-million new access road to Tacloban Airport; P20-million slope protection in Magsaysay Boulevard in Tacloban City; P138-million worth paving of road to Lake Danao in Ormoc City; P184-million road concreting to Leyte Golf and Country Club in Ormoc City; P50-million access road to jump-off point to Ando Island in Borongan City, Eastern Samar.

Also included are P37.5-million upgrading of road to Macagtas Eco-Park in Catarman, P47-million Higatangan Island circumferential road in Naval, Biliran; P45-million road to Cagnituan Cave in Maasin City, Southern Leyte; P20-million widening of road to Benit port in San Ricardo, Southern Leyte; P80-million concreting of road to Lulugayan Falls in Bobon, Northern Samar; P50-million upgrading of road to waterfalls in Calbayog City; and P106.1-million improvement of road to Calbayog Airport.

Eastern Visayas welcomed 430,734 tourists last year, surpassing the annual target of 393,072 and posting a 17.86 percent increase in arrivals compared to the previous year. (Leyte Samar Daily Express)