Miss Universe 2015 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach holds a miniature Philippines flag as she waves to the crowd during a motorcade along Roxas Boulevard in Manila, January 25, 2016. Image Credit: REUTERS

Manila: President Rodrigo Duterte has approved “in principle” the proposed hosting of the Miss Universe pageant in the Philippines in 2017, sources said.

This was confirmed by the arrival of 2015 Miss Universe Pia Wurzbach from New York on Saturday morning, ahead of her scheduled courtesy call on President Duterte on Monday.

“The president has agreed that sponsoring the event would be a tourism marketing coup with Philippines’ Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach at the helm,” said Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Teo, adding, “Sponsoring Miss Universe is our focus right now, with the plan and sources of funding in tow. We are ready to seize the moment.”

“It will be an honour for Pia to come back to the Philippines and crown her successor here,” said Teo, adding that P500 million (Dh41.66 million) is needed for the event.

Included as places to be toured by the participants of the Miss Universe pageant were the famous beaches of Boracay in Aklan, central Philippines; El Nido, in Palawan, southwest Philippines; and Cebu in central Philippines, said Teo.

Since the event’s proposed date in January coincides with the festival of the Infant Jesus in Cebu, and the Chinese New Year, “we will ask the organisers to move it to May — a perfect month for the event in the Philippines,” said Teo.

“The president will issue an executive order once the proposed hosting of the event in the Philippines is approved,” said Teo. Wurtzbach has actively campaigned for this, sources said.

Meanwhile, netizens on social media started calling on the government to improve the country’s airports and ease Metro Manila’s traffic congestion ahead of the event.

Several Miss Universe beauty pageants were held for the longest time in Long Beach, California from 1952 to 1959; and in Miami Beach, Florida from 1960 to 1971. Since then, other countries started hosting the event. The Philippines hosted it at Manila’s Cultural Centre of the Philippines in 1974, and at the Philippine International Convention Centre in 1994.

Wurtzbach became the third Filipina to become Miss Universe. The two others were Gloria Diaz and Margarita Moran in 1969 and 1973, respectively.

Three more Filipina beauty queens almost got the title before Wurtzbach’s ultimate victory in late 2015: Mary Jean Lastimosa was top 10 in 2014; Ariella Arida, third runner-up in 2013; and Janine Marie Tugonon, first runner-up in 2012.

Last September, American businessman and now presidential candidate Donald Trump bought the entire stock of the Miss Universe Organisation from NBC, but sold it to WME/IMG in the same year.