Friday, September 19, 2014

Editorial by Ernesto T. Solidum

Imbalanced Growth Of Aklans’ 
Tourism Industry

“Tourism Month Celebration” was discussed in a weekly Kapihan on September 6, 2014 at NVC Carmen Hotel. The guests are all Municipal Tourism Officers namely: Rhea Rose E. Meren – Kalibo, Ryan T. Candelario – Tangalan, Fransisco A.  Intela – Madalag, Mario Perucho, Jr. – Banga, Maria Zolita Z. Guzman – Nabas, and Razon Perlas – Numancia.

Ms. Meren stated that Tourism Act of 2009 mandates all LGU’s from Regional, Provincial, and Municipal levels to develop its tourism potentials, provide economic and sustainable delivery of services in order to achieve progress and stability in the rural areas. In view of the significant contribution of tourism to the economy and the understanding of peoples around the world, the United Nations has designated September as Tourism Month.

The planned activities are: training on front office operation on Sept. 8-10, Takbo Para sa Turismo with zumba session on Sept. 14, Orientation on the Protection of Mother and Children on Sept. 15, Tourism Quiz Bee on Sept. 16, Specialized Tour Guiding training on Sept. 19 in Kalibo.

As an international gateway to Boracay, Aklan has package tour for tourists visiting Bakawan Eco-park, Pina Village and Tigayon Hill. The Kalibo Ati-atihan festival will be on Jan. 9-18 with opening salvo “Sadsad-Tamboe” on October 24. Tigayon Hill will be fully developed and enhanced by a discovery of earthen jars, ceramics and other artifacts hidden in a cave. A team of archeologists from the National Museum is set to visit the site, averred Ms. Meren.

Madalag has a number of tourism spots like waterfalls and caves located in remote places. The most accessible is the Liktinon in Maria Cristina. This is a picturesque convergence of massive rocks strewn along the path going to Maria Cristina Falls. It is accessible by motorcycle up to a certain point but visitors had to hike one and one half (1 ½) hours over rugged terrain. Guests may savor “Tinuom” delicacy or fish roll cooked in banana leaves and sweet lanzones, said Mr. Intela.
Bugna it Tangalan are Century old church in the Poblacion, developed sites as Jawili Falls, Jawili Beach and Marine sanctuary. Other areas in the pipeline are mangrove walkaway, wave rock formation in Afga, camping and nature trail in Campo Verde. Road widening and concreting are underway to connect Tangalan Poblacion to Naisud, Ibajay to make tourism spots more accessible and enjoyable, Mr. Candelario pointed out.

Mr. Perucho cited Banga’s successful celebration of “Pag-aeaw-aeaw” and Sagibin festivals. The former reminisces the massacre of 350 Banganhons by Japanese troops after they assembled to welcome them to the Poblacion on October 23, 1943. Sagibin is Aklanon word for bayanihan or giving a helping hand.

Like a sentinel, Manduyog Hill hosts the Stations of the Cross and Duyan Pahuwayan. Banga, the Beautiful is known for its tree lined avenues, well managed public plaza and premiere center of vocational education in the province of Aklan.

Nabas has interesting sites like its scenic long beach capped by powdery white sand at its Western end, protected forest reserve-home to numerous flora and fauna, enchanting caves and cold springs. The town holds its annual “Bariw” festival and honors its famous weavers and the industry that supports thousands of families.

Being adjacent to Boracay, Nabas has distinct advantage in infra as terminal of Godofredo P. Ramos International Airport (GPRIA) and two wind power plants nearing completion, Ms. Guzman claimed.

Navitas and Camanci Norte beaches in Numancia attract daily hundreds of bathers/excursionist from neighboring towns. We have tourist attractions of century old acacia trees in Albasan and lechon festival held in May. Presently, Numancia is reviving its buri waving industry to ease out the use of plastics as packaging materials, said Mr. Perlas.

Aklan has a rich goldmine in tourism. Last year tourism influx to Boracay was 1.3 million and revenues totaled P28 billion. Kalibo International Airport (KIA) is congested. GPRIA is being improved by a private firm. Caticlan and Cagban Jetty Ports and road improvement program of DOTC, DPWH and Provincial government of Aklan is progressing at snail speed. Not contented on spending splurge, a Jetty Port and Terminal building will be constructed in Pook to accommodate big fastcrafts. Gov. Joeben Miraflores projects 2.54 million tourists will visit Aklan in 2015. There is 9 percent increase of tourist arrival in the 1st half of this year compared to the same period in 2013. 

Presently, Boracay is bursting at the seams with more and more foreign visitors. It has an area of 1,000 has. and crammed with 37,100 resident population or population density of 37 persons per hectare. This excludes the average number of 4,000 tourists per day using Boracay’s services and amenities. Seeing the google map of Boracay with all high end buildings and infra, former Prov’l Agriculturist Delano Tefora believes that Boracay has transformed from an island resort into a full blown city.

However, the basic problem of eco-tourism of frontier towns like Madalag and Libacao are accessibility, transport and personal safety. Municipal Tourism Officers are temporarily appointed or designated by Municipal Mayor. Hence, they cannot implement a sensible long range plan, except Kalibo and Malay. It is hard to believe that despite its status as tourism capital of Western Visayas, Aklan has never crafted a Provincial Tourism Plan for the last 44 years. This hit or miss way of administering public funds has no equal and most likely boomerang on the taxpayers. Just consider the mothballed P160 million Caticlan Jetty Port Reclamation project restrained by TEPO of Supreme Court. Moreover, the two international airports in a small province can be elegant and convenient, but highly controversial and self defeating.

If ever drafted, the Aklan Tourism Strategic Plan must be the development of other eco-tourism sites in order to decongest Boracay. However, the present officials of LGU’s must strengthen their respective tourism offices with competent personnel and reasonable budget. 

Meanwhile, local farmers and fishfolks are disillusioned and entirely left out by the tourism bonanza with no products to sell to visitors. With the high demand and low supply inevitably leads to higher prices of prime commodities. There is need to rationalize our economic and social agenda that food producers may also benefit from tourism rather than only service providers like hotels, resort, business, construction and transport services. 

Last year, visitors who came to Aklan spent 31 percent of their money for food out of their total expenses in Aklan. However, it is highly lamentable to know that of what they ate like vegetables, only seven (7) percent are Aklan produced, four (4) percent of fruits and 38 percent of meat and fish. The rest was supplied by other provinces or imported from abroad.

This miserable performance in food for tourists is brought about by miss-managed agriculture system, aging food producers, lack of interest among public officials in agriculture and assistance to farmers, and the negative attitude of the youth towards farming among others./MP

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