By Philippine News Agency
More tourists are expected to visit the walled-city of Intramuros with the renovation of two sections of the century-old Fort Santiago—Paseo Soledad and Plaza Moriones.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) formally opened the redeveloped sites on Monday night to guests and announced that opening hours will be extended from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. to 10:00 pm.
Paseo Soledad is a promenade that serves as a passage for residents to cross the river on rowboats to the commercial districts of Binondo and Quiapo
Meanwhile, Plaza Moriones provides a view of the iconic gate of Fort Santiago from Sta. Clara Street at the side and a fountain that lights up at night at the center.
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said that this development was in line with the agency’s Intramuros Revival Project, which she herself spearheaded October last year.
The project began with a general cleanup of the walled city. This will also include the relocation of informal settlers and the hiding of overhead utility cables underground.
Newly-appointed Intramuros Administrator lawyer Guiller Asido said that the redevelopment of Fort Santiago, which will come in two phases, costs about hp 30 million.
“The opening of Paseo Soledad and Plaza Moriones is part of Phase 1. We redeveloped the grounds to highlight the walls of Fort Santiago. There will be a mechanism for consultation for Phase 2,” Asido said.
He said that part of phase 2 would be the installation of close-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras, building of restrooms and planting of trees and other plant arrangements.
“The expectation is that when the project ends, 70 percent will be green,” he added.
Total costs of the project will be funded by the DOT’s attached agency, the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).
“This is a work in progress. In the next few months we will be opening new areas as well. We would like to make sure everyone would appreciate not just the history but also the beauty of Fort Santiago,” Asido said.
In 2016, Fort Santiago alone generated over 500,000 foreign and local tourists. With the opening of the redeveloped sites, Asido expects tourists to increase by 30 to 40 percent or up to 650,000 to 700,000 visitors.
He said this is timely especially as Hong Kong-based cruise ship Superstar Virgo also made Manila its homeport last month. Intramuros is offered as one of the shore excursions for cruise tourists.
Despite the face-lift, Asido assured that there will be no hike in entrance fees, which will remain at Php 50 for children and students and Php 75 for adults.
Aside from the rehabilitation of Fort Santiago, the Intramuros Administration will also be opening the Intramuros Museum, which will showcase all Intramuros collections, by July this year.
The DOT and its attached agencies are also expected to transfer to Intramuros within the current administration following the proposal to create a Philippine Travel Center estimated at Php 1.70 billion.
“I have submitted report to the Secretary recommending the timeline which we will begin. The agreement was made during the last administration, we are just confirming it with new administration,” Asido said.