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After a 15-hour voyage, the first luxury cruise ship to make a home port deployment in Manila, Superstar Virgo, finally made its first stop, Laoag City, on Monday.

The 13-story Superstar Virgo began its six-day, five-night cruise from Manila on Sunday (March 19) then proceed to Laoag, Kaohsiung, Hong Kong and back to Manila on Friday (March 24).

Tourism Undersecretary for Media Affairs Kat de Castro and Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos welcomed more or less 700 passengers of the 2,000-capacity cruise ship.

Marcos, in an interview, expressed hope that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) would prioritize Currimao, Ilocos Norte port in infrastructure development.

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“I hope the DOTr prioritizes our port. Please give us support Secretary (Art) Tugade,” Marcos quipped.

Meanwhile, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said that it expects approximately 2.5 million tourist arrivals in the Ilocos Region this year.

DOT-Region I Director Martin Valera told reporters that this figure is a 38 percent leap compared to the 1.9 million tourist arrivals it acquired in the same period in 2016.

Valera said the increase in tourist arrivals will be driven by promo tours from low-cost carriers, disposable income and better tourist count monitoring on the part of local government.

He, however, acknowledged that the region needed more tourist accommodations, an additional 350 rooms.

Like Marcos, he was also hopeful that the government would prioritize the Ilocos Norte port.

“Suddenly, we’re in the cruising. (The government) should take this opportunity. First we have Superstar Virgo. We might soon see Royal Caribbean coming in. We have to work as a team for national interest,” Valera said.

“It’s an exciting destination. We have pilgrimages, surfing and it’s the best place to have a nice road trip,” he added.

DOT said that around 99 percent of tourist arrivals to the Philippines enter the country via plane while the remaining one percent enter via cruise. (PNA) ANP

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