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EDITORIAL: Epiphany

Publication Date : 20-04-2014

 

That the Philippines is no slouch in terms of starkly beautiful destinations is hardly a secret, and the Inquirer’s “Getaway” series again proves it.

Since March, amazing destinations have been featured on the front page, places far from the madding crowd but offering just as much as, if not more than, the tried and tested tourist spots.

Yes, there is more to see than we think—from the raw beauty of Palaui Island to the picturesque Lake Sebu, from the crystal falls of Panas to unspoiled San Vicente, from the seven islands of Mercedes to the rock formations of Biri.

Whether on land (mountains to climb) or sea (dive spots to enjoy), whether rock formations masterfully shaped by the elements or waterfalls delicate as veils or powerful as torrents, the Philippines shows that it has a place among the best of Creation.

 As is well-known, it has five of the greatest dive spots in the world—Tubbataha, Anilao, Coron, Apo Reef and Apo Island—but there are other places for the discovery of the most enterprising travelers.

Yet these gifts are hardly enjoyed because they are hard to reach or, quite simply, not known. Getting to Palaui, for example, requires a flight to Tuguegarao City followed by a three-hour drive to San Vicente fish port and then by a 30-minute boat ride to the island itself.

The remote locations are a mixed blessing: Few have been there butgetting there is a chore; some folks like roughing it, but what about those who don’t? There’s no better time than now to begin building the roads and the facilities to welcome visitors.

And the charms of the destinations include being open all year, such as the surfing spot of Dahican in Davao Oriental. “In Dahican, there’s no peak month,” said local environment officer Jose Moring. “All year round is peak season.”

Local tourism can use as big a boost as it can get in terms of promotions, transport, and accommodations (at the very least). With the essentials mastered, the benefits of international tourism will greatly help move the economy toward the elusive goal of inclusive growth.

(Occasionally, foreign visitors stay on, as in the case of Canadian John Ryan who thinks he has found Eden. “A laid-back lifestyle, wonderful people, an island with awesome rock formations, blue seas and a rich marine life. How can you not love that? This is paradise,” Ryan said.)

In San Vicente, Palawan, Mayor Pie Alvarez is convinced of the area’s glittering prospects: “There is no doubt that Long Beach is destined to become a world-class tourist destination… It is one of the longest, if not the longest, white-sand beaches in the Philippines.”

Yet she is mindful of the impact of development in San Vicente; she intends to develop the area “without sacrificing the environment” and to “learn from the best practices of tourism destinations around the world and create our own unique destination.”

These new destinations are positive proof that, as the Department of Tourism continues to claim, “it’s more fun in the Philippines.” The travel industry is still in the process of righting itself after the devastating passage of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” last year.

Speaking for the United Nations World Tourism Organization, secretary general Taleb Rifai has said it was “confident that despite this tragic occurrence, the tourism sector in the Philippines will continue to strive and make a key contribution to the development of the country.” Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez has expressed similar optimism.

With private investors putting their money where their mouth is, these emerging destinations bid fair to be among the Philippines’ hot draws.

 It’s an opportune time for relevant government agencies, including the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, to pitch in and ensure not only accessibility (roads, seaports, airports) and accommodations (home-stay arrangements involving the locals are a great way to start) but also, and most important, security.

Additionally, the government should mount and maintain a campaign to educate Filipinos on the necessity of preservation and conservation.

Discovering and enjoying our natural treasures would then be the ideal epiphany.

 

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