Davao to host largest fruit market in Asia

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THE Department of Tourism (DOT) will be developing the “largest fruit market in Asia,” which will be in Davao City.

This was revealed by Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez Jr., during a discussion with editors and reporters of the ALC Media Group on Tuesday.

“Every time you ask where this certain fruit comes from, the answer is always Davao. And when you go to Davao and ask where is the fruit market, it’s in the regular market. So we finally decided, we should have Davao host the largest fruit market in Asia,” he said, intimating that this will surely attract local and foreign tourists alike.

The Davao region—which includes Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental and Davao Occidental—produces papaya, mangosteen, pomelo, durian, mango, pineapple, banana, etc.

Tourism Assistant Secretary for Mindanao Arturo Boncato Jr. told the BusinessMirror that the Asian Fruit Market is scheduled to be opened by the second quarter “to jump-start the project in time for Visit the Philippines Year 2015.” It will be located in a 2,000-square-meter prime outdoor space, “provided for free for two years” by the Abreeza Mall, owned by Ayala Land Inc.

“The secretary’s vision is for Davao to be a destination hosting the largest fruit market in Asia that will house fresh fruits, processed-fruit products, fruit-based products and food and beverage services, given Davao’s rich agricultural resources and proximity to equally productive provinces,” he explained.

The Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, an attached agency of the DOT, “will bankroll the design and construction of temporary structures that are aesthetically complementary with the host environment,” for Phase 1 of the Asian Fruit Market, he added. The project is estimated to cost P30 million, but Boncato stressed that a large chunk of the amount is accounted for by value of the mall space.

He said a more permanent space is being eyed for the Asian Fruit Market, with the DOT already looking for available public land for this purpose.

Data from DOT-Davao showed a 26-percent increase in visitor arrivals in the region to 2.3 million in 2014, with foreign visitors comprising 132,518, up some 20 percent from 2013.

Davao is expected to benefit from a new air-services agreement (ASA) between the Philippines and Singapore which grants Singapore carriers’ additional co-terminal and stopover rights in the city, and in Manila, Cebu, Puerto Princesa, Kalibo, Cagayan de Oro, Laoag, Legazpi, Puerto Princesa, and Zamboanga. This includes two new provinces—Iloilo and Bacolod. This means Singapore carriers can travel to and from Singapore to and from two local cities in just one flight (e.g., Singapore-Manila-Davao).

The new ASA increases weekly seat entitlements to 18,888 (105 frequencies per week) from 17,267.

The DOT, in a media statement, said this new agreement strengthens its strategy in positioning the Philippines as a multiple gateway destination in Asia.

With increased flights, tourists and investors can expect to travel to and from the two countries with ease. The Philippines gains greater entry to a major hub such as the Changi International Airport, while Singapore residents and citizens can look forward to wider access to top tourism destinations in the Philippines. This agreement is integral to the twin marketing destination strategy of the Philippines and Singapore. (See “PHL, Singapore in joint tourism drive,” in the BusinessMirror, February 25, 2015.)

In 2014 a total of 179,099 Singaporeans visited the Philippines, up 3.7 percent from 2013, making it the top source market of tourists from Southeast Asia region. With the expanded ASA between the Philippines and Singapore, the country expects to enjoy an increase in tourism arrivals not only from Singapore, but also from other parts of the globe.

“The travel business in Southeast Asia today is characterized by a phenomenon called ‘coopetition’—a cooperative, collaborative decision by all players to compete with each other so that the world will choose the region before choosing the country. As the Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] invites the world to feel the warmth, this phenomenon finds one of its most exciting permutations in the travel exchange between the Philippines and Singapore. Our countries are, in very real terms, each other’s value extension,” Jimenez said.

The new ASA also expands the fifth freedom rights of Philippine and Singapore carriers to 10 weekly services from the previous eight, allowing a Singapore carrier to operate a route from Singapore to Manila then to Osaka or Seoul, while Philippine carriers can fly passengers from Manila to Singapore, onward to any point in India.

The parties also agreed to grant third-country code-sharing to both Philippine and Singapore carriers, which will allow the existing air rights of both parties to be reallocated to a third-country airline. This gives the Philippines added exposure and access opportunity to points not currently served by both local and foreign carriers with existing rights. The operation by a third-country carrier under this agreement will greatly help the DOT in promoting the Philippines to the points of origin of such cooperative operational arrangement.

“The more connected we become, the more value we add to each other’s offering. As we work toward our goal of achieving our visitor arrival, revenue, and employment targets, we need to greatly enhance our international air seats and connectivity,” the tourism chief stressed.