September 16, 2015

MANILA, Philippines (AP) Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao and tourism officials said Wednesday images of the Philippine capital and the country's main tourist spots on Google's Street View could help attract more visitors to the country.

Google country marketing manager Ryan Morales said the Philippines became the 69th country included in Google's Street View with its Wednesday launching in Manila.

The images captured over six months last year include panoramic views of street scenes in 37 cities and 35 historic and heritage sites, including Pacquiao's southern hometown where he began his career as one of the world's most popular boxers.

Rocked by insurgencies and poor infrastructure, the Philippines struggles to bolster tourism, lagging neighboring Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.

Pacquiao said the images include his old neighborhood in Sarangani province, which he represents as a congressman, General Santos City, the country's tuna capital, and the city hall where he used to sell bread to earn money when he was a young boy from a dirt-poor family.

He said the Google project will support ''our goal of making the Philippines a top tourist destination in Asia.''

In jest, he said that he may ''need a rematch with (Floyd) Mayweather'' to raise money to bring more visitors to Sarangani but that the images will do that for him. Pacquiao lost to Mayweather in May in boxing's richest fight.

''I do not need to give away plane tickets and spend a lot of money to showcase the beauty of our province,'' he said with a broad smile. Pacquiao is known to spend large amounts to bring along a huge entourage to watch his fights.

Domingo Ramon Enerio III, the chief operating officer of the Tourism Promotions Board, said tourism is a ''feel good industry'' which contributed $6 billion to the Philippine economy last year.

The government statistics agency has reported that tourism contributed 7.8 percent to the economy last year.

Enerio said the government is confident the Philippines will surpass 5 million visitors for the first time this year.

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