Foreign tourist arrivals breached the half-million mark in the first two months of the year, the highest so far registered in the last three years, the Department of Tourism (DOT) reported.

Tourism Secretary Ace Durano said fromJanuary to February, the DOT has recorded 570,612 international arrivals, 9.7 percent higher than the 520,256 visitors in the same period last year, with more expected to come in the next few months.

Durano said tourist arrivals grew by 11.7 percent to 276,809 in February, compared to 247,731 visitors in the same month in 2007.

He said Koreans posted the biggest arrivals in February, with 56,832 visitors, or 14.6 percent higher than last year’s 49,579 arrivals.

Koreans contributed 20.5 percent to the total visitor traffic, while Americans ranked second at 50,372 visitors or 18 percent of the total inbound volume.

The DOT reported that the US market grew by 9.4 percent from 46,036 to 50,372 arrivals last year.

Japanese tourists reached 31,469, while Chinese visitors registered 22,446 arrivals for a share of 8.1 percent of total visitor volume. Chinese tourists increased by 45.3 percent from 15,445 arrivals last year.

Other countries that recorded big tourist arrivals were Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, the DOT has launched a campaign to ensure clean and safe surroundings in Boracay, as foreign and local tourists are expected to flock to the internationally renowned island.

Durano said the DOT would be working with the Rotary Club of Boracay and the island’s three barangays in promoting healthy habits to lessen the incidence of dengue in the area.

He said the DOT provided P1.75 million to fund the training of local health advocates who will help and educate residents about dengue, as well as start an information campaign in schools and other establishments.

The fund will also be used to buy fish seedlings, mosquito catchers, and non-hazardous sprays to counter the proliferation of dengue mosquito larvae.

“The DOT saw fit to help them take the initiative, as the tourism sector claims a huge share of the livelihood and economic activity on the island,” he added.

The DOT is also coordinating with the Boracay Chamber of Commerce and the Central Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) of Boracay for the residual waste management project.

The department will also provide P1.85 million for the acquisition of equipment for residual waste and making hollow blocks from recyclable materials.

The fund will also be used to train MRF workers on the proper use of the technology and spread information on proper waste disposal among island dwellers.