Wednesday, August 06, 2014

EDITORIAL by Ernesto T. Solidum

Aklan Tourism Infra Needs 
Preparation For APEC Summit

“APEC: State of Aklanon Preparedness” was hot topic in the Kapihan recently at NVC Carmen Hotel. The guests were Mr. Niven M. Maquirang - Jetty Port Administrator, Engr. Ronnie G. Tabernilla - DPWH, Supt. Jonil John Trio - APPD, Police Supt. Samuel Nacion, and OIC Police Prov’l Dir. Aden Lagradante.

Atty. Allen S. Quimpo said that the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit to be held in the Philippines next year is a good opportunity whereby policymakers and businessmen from countries will know firsthand the actual conditions happening in the country, specifically in Region 6. The delegates’ expertise on economic development is most welcomed as they discuss issues and strategies to hasten industrialization through growth of small and medium enterprises. Food security is timely because of climate change.

The Boracay event will be held on May 10-15, 2015. This will be attended by 1090 guests (including some family members) and September 21-25, 2015 in Iloilo City with 500 guests. Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog got the nod of Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III after inaugurating big ticket projects as the Iloilo Convention Center, Iloilo River Esplanade and Sen. Benigno Aquino Avenue (4 lanes). It should be noted that the P5 billion Iloilo International Airport was completed 6 years ago.

Engr. Tabernilla said that the Aklan West Road widening project from Kalibo to Caticlan (65km) has a total budget outlay of P668.07 million. The release of funds is by road sections namely: a) Dumga, Makato to Tamalagon, Tangalan – P150 million, b) Junction Nabas to Caticlan – P100 million.

For Kalibo Circumferential road, release of fund is: a) Tigayon riverbank to Jaime Cardinal Sin Avenue – P65 million, b) Pook Jetty port to Jaime Cardinal Sin Avenue – P85 million, and c) Riverbank Mina to Makato – P109.0 million.

The special releases are: a) Concreting Pobl. Tangalan to Naisud, Ibajay via Jawili – P98 million and b) Expansion and concreting Kalibo to Banga (4 lanes) – P460 million (allotment of Sen. Franklin Drilon for the Boracay Summit.)

Mr. Maquirang cited the bidding of 2 jetty Ports namely: Caticlan and Cagban for improvement of facilities to anticipate not only APEC guests but also phenomenal growth of 9 percent tourist arrivals for the first six months of this year. The funding for Caticlan is P207 million while Cagban is P61 million all sourced from DOTC.

The bulk of the project at Caticlan Jetty Port is to extend the breakwater to open sea in order to provide safety navigation of small watercrafts, filling of 2.6 hectares foreshore area and construction of boardwalk. In Cagban, it will extend the boardwalk and develop the foreshore area in coordination with private developers. Considering that the time element is only 8 months from now, the construction will be of two shifts, 24/7 Maquirang disclosed.

OIC Supt. Lagradante said the PNP will provide the usual maximum security and assistance for these are high profile guests. Our security protocol will commence at Kalibo International Airport (KIA) up to their hotel in Boracay. If possible there must be no disruption of regular flow of passengers or tourists traffic and be in control of any situation, averred the Police Superintendent.

Sr. Supt Nacion feels it is a challenge to have the Aklan PNP provide security, maintain peace and order for the duration of the APEC summit. “We will mobilize our SWAT team, public safety company, canine units, bomb disposal ordnance unit and coordinate with Philippine Navy and Philippine Coastguard to bolster our personnel and equipments”.

Let’s admit it. Iloilo is far ahead and better prepared in as far as hosting the summit is concerned. Aklan on the other hand is just starting the ropes so to speak. Aklan tourism infra projects namely: KIA and G.P. Ramos International Airport, Western Road widening project, Circumferential road, Kalibo bridge widening and 2 Jetty ports in Malay are rather on implementing stage or halfway in completion. Presently, KIA is one of 10 busiest airports in the country according to CAAP.

It is common knowledge that when a project is rushed for completion, the result is generally substandard finish or structurally defective. 

In Boracay, tourists find it uncomfortable to ride in tricycles speeding at 30-40 kph on provincial roads. It’s more fun in the Philippines slogan has some hair raising tale. Land Transportation Office (LTO) Aklan shows there are 4,026 vehicles in Boracay as of September 24, 2011. It has 18 kms. of road network and resident population of 28,309 (NSO May 1, 2010) but may now be 37, 101 based on high growth rate of 7 percent per year.

Architect Maquirang is bullish about influx of tourists to Boracay and national economy. His projects up his sleeve are: a second Jetty Port in Yapak and elevated Jetty Port in Caticlan to separate incoming from departing passengers. This will be complemented by the Pook Jetty Port in Kalibo where 2 fast crafts (200 passenger cap.) will ferry airline passengers and domestic tourists direct to Cagban Port. Obviously bigger expense will be allotted for construction of a passenger terminal in Pook, said Maquirang.

Palawan Subteranean River, a World Heritage Site has a tourism load capacity of 900 visitors per day to make it sustainable or prevent undue stress on the environment. In Boracay it is unbridled desire for more infra development despite having reached the optimum limit of growth.

Rather than build new and bigger infra why not fund a feasibility study on beach nourishment as proposed by Engr. Jonathan Salvador? The objective is to reclaim or restore 1,500 meters long by 75 meters wide beach in Balabag by means of siphoning dredge ship. Funding of a beach nourishment project may come from the annual tourism receipts which was P26 billion out of 1.3 million tourists in 2013. Furthermore, the annual revenue of Caticlan and Cagban Jetty Ports is P300 million according to Mr. Maquirang. The priority of the study is important due to the rapid coastal erosion exacerbated by climate change and illegal structures done by hotel and resort owners.

Ms. Catherine Hamon, Deputy Travel Editor of Los Angeles Times said that Boracay does not deserve to be recognized as a Travelers’ Choice for the best beach in the world title for it is overcrowded and overdeveloped. Book author Dan Brown call Manila as the gates of hell probably noting the chaotic service at NAIA. He must come to Boracay to get his taste another hell or heaven on earth.

Whether true or not this is a wake up call for sobriety that deserves a soul searching examination. Aklan may have the golden egg but let us take good care of the hen. Presently, it is about to die of exhaustion, congestion and neglect. Tomorrow may be too late to resuscitate it. That being said foreigners and businessmen will just pack up and move to other promising places. /MP

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