President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. witnessed the signing of agreements on air services and medical tourism that are expected to boost the tourism industries of the two Pacific island nations.
The first agreement calls for the expansion and enhancement of the 2003 Philippines-Palau Bilateral Air Services Agreement. The other is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Medical Tourism/Medical Referral and Higher Education Training in Health.
Both agreements are expected to facilitate the Philippine tourism industry’s goal of attaining five million tourist arrivals by 2010 under the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan.
The President said that like Palau, the Philippines also offers many famous and world-class dive spots and the resulting increase in tourist arrivals would likewise see the growth of hotels, resorts and other allied services, including the booming local medical tourism industry.
“That is why we are happy that today there was a signing of an amendment, an expansion of our air services agreement with each other, so that this two-way exchange of tourists – diving tourists and medical tourists will become bigger than ever,” the President said.
At present, groups of Palau residents visit Davao City for their dental services and eye checkups. Davao City, which is just one-and-a-half hours by plane from Palau, is noted for its excellent medical facilities at very affordable cost.
The enhanced air linkage between the two countries will also enable Palau residents to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, including the exotic “durian” that are abundant in Davao.
Tour operators from Palau have also joined travel tours and expositions in Davao, which has become a favorite shopping destination among Palau residents.
Davao products are about two-thirds cheaper than the same goods in Palau.
Topping the list of tourists/divers visiting Davao and Palau are those coming from Europe, Taiwan, China and Japan.