Palawan Governor Jose Chaves Alvarez is eyeing to replicate the tourism economic model of Kota Kinabalu to boost the province’s local economy and generate more jobs and livelihood opportunities for Palaweños.
Alvarez believes that Palawan’s tourism potential would be an effective fighting tool to fight hunger and poverty.
“In tourism, I have seen a direct poverty alleviator,” Alvarez said in a news statement.
Alvarez, also chairman of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), is serving his third and final term as governor of Palawan and is now gunning for a seat in the House of Representatives representing the province’s 2nd district.
According to Alvarez, everyone benefits from tourism. “Not only the businessman who owns the resort but the farmers who sell their produce and livestock, the masahistas, the vendors, the carpenters and construction workers, the weavers and handicraft makers, the boatmen, the labandera, everybody,” said Alvarez.
Poverty incidence, which used to be at 65.02 percent in the province, has dropped under the Alvarez administration to about 55 percent.
The governor hopes to further decrease it to the national average of 24 percent or hopefully even lower. Alvarez said he would like Palawan to become entrenched as a global tourist destination, like the Hawaiian Islands of the United States, or rival the phenomenal success of Kota Kinabalu.
“Kota Kinabalu has 1 million Filipinos, mostly undocumented, servicing tourists,” Alvarez cited, as an example. “Money circulating in Kota Kinabalu is equivalent to about P130 billion a year.”
“Imagine Palawan’s tourism receipts if we can guarantee from 5 to 7 million tourists a year. Every tourist generates jobs for seven Palaweños. Our IRA [internal revenue allotment] of P3 billion would be miniscule compared to the potential tourism receipts,” he said. He noted the province easily lost about P150 billion in tourism revenues in the first months of the pandemic alone due to travel restrictions.
“Everybody will benefit from the tourism industry,” he said. “Even the national economy will get a huge boost if Palawan can maximize its tourism potential.”
“My foremost goal is to make the life of the poorest Palaweños a little better. The last, least, and lost. If you are a father who has several children, you look after all your children, but you pay more attention to those who are lagging behind in their lives. You give them what they need to catch up,” he explained.
“You help them, so they won’t be left behind,” noted Alvarez, who lost his only child Jim in 2013 in a car accident in Quezon City. “This is really my mission. I have been in business for the last 50 years and the last 9 or almost 10 years serving as governor has been my CSR [corporate social responsibility],” Alvarez said. He admitted there are still many areas under deep poverty in Palawan.
“If you are a father you want it before you die and leave this world, that your children can be independent and successful, that they can stand on their own feet,” Alvarez said.
“This is what I want for Palaweños. It would give me a sense of fulfillment, like a proud father, to see them in thriving livelihoods, being able to provide for their own needs, not always relying on the government for help. This is why we made these difficult decisions, why we made investments in the province, to make positive changes in the lives of Palaweños,” Alvarez said.