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Leyte town counts on springs to boost tourism

With extensive promotion and backing of experts, the town of Burauen, Leyte is off to a good start in its goal to market the area as the spring capital of Leyte.

The local government has been consulting with industry experts on how to develop the town’s eco-tourism sites in a sustainable manner.

Among them are former actress and UN Sustainable Development Goals Advocate Antoinette Taus, former Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor, and Asean Center for Biodiversity Director Mundita Lim.

In an interview with Philippine News Agency, town Mayor Juanito Renomeron said with the limitations of the local government, they have been seeking assistance from experts and advocates on how to carry out the Burauen Eco-tourism and Sustainable Tourism (BEST) project.

“We are embarking into something new to us, yet we are aware that this is something that will help improve our economy. We have to recognize the need to develop tourism as a way to improve the lives of people,” Renomeron said.

The mayor noted that many tourists have been coming to their town to visit cold spring resorts especially during sunny days, but a lot of work has to be done to develop nature tourism.

“The town has many areas potential for eco-tourism since we are gifted with a lot of cold springs. We hired a team of consultants to help us our effort in the next two years,” he added.

The team is headed by Joselito Costas, founder of Grassroots Travel, the group behind the development and promotion of Bojo River in Aloguinsan, Cebu.

On August 2, experts came to the town for the first-ever tourism summit to share market development, heritage, civil society and private sector partnership, farm tourism, and conservation. Joining the summit are village officials, leaders of people’s organization, and investors.

Taus said these efforts make Burauen town ahead of other local government units in the country especially that sustainability is in the heart of the program.

“With eco-tourism, visitors are looking for new and exciting places and they want to connect with nature. We are here to support and we’ll be coming again to experience tourism first hand,” she said.

Lim, meanwhile, said through sustainable tourism and promotion efforts, more people would be interested to see what’s unique in the mountains of Leyte.

“This is a very good step forward for everyone to recognize that they will be able to see something different in the heart of Leyte. We are happy to work with Burauen to strengthen sustainable tourism activities and protect Burauen’s biodiversity,” Lim told summit participants.

Gabor, in her message, lauded the local government for allowing local stores instead of big chains to flourish.

“I was touched to see stores selling local products unique in Burauen. Tourists will come here not to buy souvenirs and taste the food available in big cities, but to get something that they have not seen in other places,” she said.

Renomeron said the local government initially identified eco-tourism sites in the villages of Matin-ao, Tambis, Villa Rosas, Abuyogon, Cansiboy, and Kagbana.

These areas are seen as an addition to Mahagnao Volcano Natural Park, a site proclaimed as a national park in 1937. The site is endowed with other natural attractions – a lake, falls, multi-colored mud, virgin forests, and lagoon. Mahagnao, which has been drawing nature-loving tourists, is 18 kilometers away from the town center of Burauen.

Burauen is derived from the word “Burabod” which means “spring”.

The town is known as the fountainhead of several rivers – the big Daguitan and Marabong rivers, the Guinarona and Hibuga rivers that pass through several neighboring towns, as well as several smaller ones.

The town, with a land area of over 30,000 hectares divided into 77 villages, has its own water system.

From Tacloban City, where the airport is located, the site is an hour trip by land through a 50-kilometer trip. The town is situated in the central part of Leyte Island by two cities and eight towns. (Sarwell Meniano and Roel Amazona/Philippine News Agency)

Top photo: The Lake Malagsum within the Mahagnao Volcano Natural Park in Burauen, Leyte, one the natural tourism assets in this town. The local government is counting on springs to develop its local tourism industry. (Photo courtesy of Burauen local government)

PH considers overhauling of visa-on-arrival policy for Chinese travelers

Logistical considerations are among the factors being taken up by the Philippine government over the proposal on whether to refine or scrap outright the visa upon arrival (VUA) policy for Chinese travelers, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

“China is a very big country. There are many people who come from remote provinces of China, so the question is do we have enough consular offices to handle. If the DFA says we can do that, we have been doing that before, well and good, no problem with us, we will consider reviewing the mechanism of visa upon arrival with the coordination of Bureau of Immigration and DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs),” Guevarra said.

Justice Undersecretary Mark Perete, meanwhile, said any refinement of the VUA, if adopted, would include safeguards to prevent abuse.

“Definitely the requirements on who may be able to avail visa upon arrival would have to be reviewed as well if the option is to refine the system to avoid abuses,” he explained.

Perete also said the final decision on whether to scrap the VUA policy will come after balancing a number of concerns.

“At the moment, the informal proposal ng BI is to refine the system, but the proposal came before (DFA) secretary (Teodoro) Locsin came up with the proposal to scrap it, we will have to see, we will have to balance the differing interests, and differing demands from the sectors. The visas upon arrival were the demand of the Department of Tourism before, so probably, its now put in place,” Perete added.

Guevarra said they will also consider the issue of security raised by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, among others.

“Meron ding (There is also a) concern on undocumented Chinese nationals are coming over, or documented but doing something else, so that is something we should also take into account,” he said.

The DOJ chief said one of the concerns of the BI is that the usual three-month visa, which is renewable for another three months, is being abused by foreigners who then go to work without acquiring the required work permits. (Benjamin Pulta, PNA)

New Manila International Airport in Bulacan construction to start this year

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) recently announced that the construction works for the New Manila International Airport (NMIA) in Bulacan will begin this year.

The PHP735.6 billion project’s construction, operation, and maintenance are set to be awarded to San Miguel Holdings Corporation (SMHC), after no other company challenged the original proponent during a bidding by the DOTr’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) at the DOTr office in Clark, Pampanga.

DOTr Assistant Secretary for Communications Goddes Hope Libiran said the next step in the process would be the issuance of a notice of award (NOA) to SMHC within the next five days followed by a notice to proceed (NTP).

“Yung NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) board approval, tapos na yun (that’s done). That was given before the Swiss Challenge. Next step is the issuance of an NOA (within 5 days) and then issuance of the NTP,” Libiran said.

DOTr Assistant Secretary for Procurement and Project Implementation Giovanni Lopez, who also leads the BAC, said once the SMHC has received their NOA, they have 20 days to comply with certain requirements.

“On the notice of award, there are some conditions that should be complied with. These include post-performance security, proof of commitment, among others as stated in the law. They (SMHC) have 20 days to do so,” Lopez said.

The performance security to be required from the SMHC will vary between one or a combination of cash, irrevocable letter of credit and surety bond.

“Cash – a minimum of 2% of the project cost; irrevocable letter of credit – a minimum of 5% of project cost; surety bond – a minimum of 10%,” Libiran said.

Meanwhile, DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said the NMIA will only be part of a “basket of solutions” introduced by the Duterte administration.

“This new international airport is important in helping ease the congestion of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Together with the expansion of Clark Airport and the construction of additional facilities at Sangley Airport, Bulacan Airport is part of ‘baskets of solutions’ to bring further connectivity to the Filipino people,” Tugade said.

The new international gateway is expected to be operational within four to six years from the start of construction this year.

The NMIA is designed to have a capacity of 100 million passengers per year which can later be expanded to 200 million.

With its four parallel runways planned, the airport targets 240 aircraft movements per hour.

An 8.4-kilometer tollway connecting the airport to the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) in Marilao, Bulacan is also planned to be constructed as part of the project. (Raymond Carl Dela Cruz, PNA)

PH airports waves terminal fees for students

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) issued a memorandum on July 26, 2019, directing all airports to exempt students from paying terminal fee.

Filipino students from nursery to college, including those enrolled in Trade, Arts, and technical vocational schools are indicated in the said memorandum.

However, those enrolled in dancing, driving schools, culinary arts, and seminar-type short term courses, and students taking up Medicine, Law, masters and doctorate degrees, could not avail of this privilege.

For those who have already paid the terminal fee at point of sale of an airline ticket, they can seek a refund at Malasakit Centers (Malasakit Help Desks) located inside the airport.

Students must fill up the application form for Student Exemption Certificate. A photocopy of a student ID or current school registration card will also be required. (Filane Mikee Cervantes, PNA)

IN JAN-MAY 2019: PH receives 3.5-million foreign tourists

About 3.5 million tourists from all over the world visited the Philippines in the first five months of 2019, according to the Department of Tourism (DOT).

The 3,489,270 total number of tourists in the Philippines from January to May 2019 marks a 9.76 percent increase from last year’s 3,178,984 figures.

Department of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said “the numbers are very encouraging. From 3,178,984 tourists recorded from January to May in 2018, we are already close to breaching the 3.5 million mark this year. This only shows that the preservation of our environment can go hand in hand with economic gains.”

Puyat said she is also pleased to note that for the month of May, tourist arrivals saw an impressive 15.62 percent growth, the highest month-per-month growth rate this year, from 537,743 last year to 621,719 this year.

The country’s number one source market, South Korea, continues its foothold in the top spot with 788,530 Jan-May arrivals, chalking up an 11.76 percent growth rate comprising 22.6 percent of the total arrivals.

China trails closely behind with 733,769 arrivals for a staggering 30.96 percent increase and with a 21.03 percent market share.

Sustaining its third and fourth rankings are the USA with 472,469 (+1.98%) and Japan with 281,988 (+2.19%).

Another market with a remarkable double-digit growth rate is Taiwan at the fifth place with 128,986 (+27.24%).

Australia with 123,851 (+2.7%), Canada with 114,605 (+5.01%), and the United Kingdom with 92,914 (+3.49%) posted positive growth placing sixth, seventh, and eighth, respectively.

Singapore followed at the ninth spot with 64,951 (-14.38%) with Malaysia winding up the top ten markets with 62,144 (+1.81%). (DOT)

DOTr orders 24/7 construction of Sangley airport

Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade has directed the 24/7 construction of Sangley airport in Cavite to meet the operational timeline set by President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

Tugade ordered the hiring of additional manpower, the implementation of extended working hours, and the infusion of additional equipment starting Thursday, June 13.

“Whatever it takes, we need to make sure that the directive of the President is delivered. Hire more manpower to work 24/7. Kailangan matapos ‘yan (That needs to be finished) on or before the timeline set by President Duterte,” Tugade said.

In compliance with Tugade’s directive to speed up the construction of the Sangley airport, DOTr Assistant Secretary for Procurement and Project Implementation Giovanni Lopez met with members of “Task Force Sangley” on Wednesday, attended by representatives from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), the Philippine Air Force (PAF), the ferry system, and the project contractor.

Lopez said the critical developments in the project are well underway, including the runway, apron, Passenger Terminal Building, its power supply, drainage system, and site development.

Lopez said Tugade’s instructions to CAAP is to work closely with the DOTr on the civil works so that the support facilities can be immediately incorporated for the airport to commence operations at the soonest time possible.

A synchronization matrix will be submitted as a guide for monitoring, Lopez said.

During the meeting, an ocular inspection was also held at the possible site of the ferry station, wherein the contractor was given two months to construct the port in coordination and compliance with the regulations of Philippine Ports Authority, CAAP, PAF, and the Philippine Navy.

The contractor has agreed to the submission of a weekly progress report alongside a weekly site visit and inspection by the DOTr for close monitoring of the construction progress.

Mindoro eyed as PH’s tuna sport fishing capital

In some parts of the country, it is the literal mineral that seamen try to dredge. But in Mindoro, it is mining the living and flipping the “new gold of the sea” — the yellowfin tuna.

Already established as a source of livelihood for the island, fisherfolk in Occidental Mindoro are keen to market the brimming supply of tuna for sport fishing.

“If you talk about tuna sport fishing, we want Mindoro to be the first thing that pops in your mind,” Bernie Castellano of the Occidental Mindoro Federation of Tuna Fishers Association said in a press conference for the annual Mimaropa Festival held in Mamburao.

“We want to market tuna sport fishing because we’ve been hearing a lot from people who want to visit Mindoro just to experience catching tuna. Yellow fin tuna is considered new gold of the sea,” Castellano said.

Yellowfin fishing has been a booming industry for Occidental Mindoro for the past few years as tuna’s behavioral patterns change. The pelagic fishes mostly caught in the coastal waters of Mindanao are now thriving in the Mindoro Strait, which connects the natural resources-rich West Philippine Sea and Sulu Sea.

What makes Mindoro tuna special is its freshness given the distance from the fishing grounds to the port.

“We have high quality tuna because the shoal is just three hours away from the (tuna) landing area. For example, if it was caught at around 3 a.m., by 6 a.m. we already serve it for consumption, that’s how fresh our tuna is in Mindoro,” Castellano stressed.

On Nov. 8, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro hosted the third Philippine Tuna Biggest Catch Challenge Mindoro Strait Edition.

The event coincided with the Arawatan and the Mimaropa Festival where contingents from the five provinces of Occidental and Oriental Mindoro, Romblon, Marinduque, and Palawan participated in the street-dancing parade and trade fair.

According to Castillo, the federation already got the nod of the Department of Tourism in promoting the sport fishing event.

“I already talked to Secretary (Bernadette) Puyat, and she asked us to submit a project proposal to assess how the DOT can help promote,” he said in Filipino. (Joyce Ann L. Rocamora/PNA)

Cebu Pacific gets highest ranking for safety

Philippine-based carrier Cebu Pacific (CEB) recently received a 7-star safety ranking from AirlineRatings.com, the highest ranking that the online airline safety and product rating review website confers.

AirlineRatings.com awards airlines that have completed three stars based on the International Air Transport Association Operation Safety Audit (IOSA). Audit is being done every two years.

The IOSA aims to reduce airline accidents, and also improve safety through simple maintenance programs.

AirlineRatings.com claimed that in 2017, the all-accident rate for airlines on the IOSA registry was nearly four times better than those that did not register for the audit.

“Safety is paramount for Cebu Pacific. We will always put the safety of our passengers and our flights first,” spokesperson Charo Lagamon told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Sunday.

The airline has achieved full compliance with the IOSA, joining a roster of 429 airlines worldwide that have strictly complied with this international standards governing aviation safety.

“We are happy that our efforts to continually ensure and improve the safety of our flights are recognized,” Lagamon said. (Source: Ma. Cristina Arayata, Philippine News Agency)

Philippines improves ranking in global tourism index

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) placed the Philippines in the 13th on the Travel and Tourism Countries Power ranking, and 15th on the Travel and Tourism Countries Performance ranking.

Based on the country’s absolute growth, the Philippines is ranked 13th with an overall score of 19.75 in the WTTC’s Travel and Tourism Countries Power ranking, which is.

Based on compound annual growth, the Philippines is ranked 15th with an overall score of 30.0 in the WTTC’s Travel and Tourism Performance ranking.

Both ranking include four main Travel and Tourism indicators namely: Travel and Tourism total gross domestic product, foreign visitor spending (visitor exports), domestic spending and Travel and Tourism capital investment.

The Philippines ranked eighth among states that have seen the largest growth in travel and tourism’s contribution to GDP from 2011 to 2017, with USD66.3 billion share in 2017 alone.

The Philippines also placed seventh among states where travel and tourism contribution to GDP grew fastest, growing at an annual rate of 14.2 percent.

WTTC’s report involves assessing 185 states based on its travel and tourism sector’s performance from the period of 2011 to 2017 after the financial crisis ended.

The report \also highlights the scale of growth of a country’s travel and tourism in four key areas: contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), international visitor spend, domestic spend, and capital investment.

WTTC is an organization of global business community for the travel and tourism industry that works to raise awareness of travel and tourism as one of the world’s largest industries.

2018 tourist arrivals in PH grow by 9.74%

Tourist arrivals in the first seven months of the year increased by 9.74 percent to 4.3 million visitors compared to 3.92 million in the same period last year, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said.

In July alone, visitors tallied 601,322, posting a growth rate of 5.86 percent from the 568,035 recorded in July 2017 despite the low-travel season and the temporary closure of Boracay, a major tourist draw for the Philippines.

Data from DOT-Statistics, Economic Analysis and Information Management Division (SEAIMD) show that South Korea remains the country’s top source market, followed by China, the United States, Japan, and Australia.

In data obtained by the Philippine News Agency (PNA), South Koreans totaled 937,227 from January to July 2018. Chinese nationals came in second with 764,094 tourists. China remains a fast-growing market with a 40.01 percent growth rate compared to its 545,725 tourists last year.

On the other hand, visitors from the US and Japan reached 649,496 and 366,649, respectively. Australia, the fifth source market of the country, had a total of 161,077 tourists for the same period.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette-Romulo Puyat described the steady increase as a positive reflection of the “brighter” future of the Philippine tourism industry.

“With the challenges and hurdles the industry is facing, maintaining the positive trajectory of visitor arrivals is not an easy feat, but the industry has kept itself afloat,” Romulo-Puyat said in a statement.

“We only have our stakeholders and government partners to thank. But of course, this will not be possible without the dedicated men and women of the DOT,” she added.

She expressed optimism the agency would reach the government’s target of 7.4 million arrivals for 2018.

“With the roll-out of a comprehensive branding campaign in the coming months and the scheduled reopening of a better Boracay on Oct. 26, we are optimistic that we will hit, or better yet, surpass our target of 7.4 million for 2018,” she said.