Department of Tourism (DOT) Sec. Wanda Corazon Tulfo-Teo has proven to the world that Bohol is safe even if the manhunt on the two remaining Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) remnants continues.
She toured the leading attractions in the province on Thursday, right when some brave barrio men caught and tied one of the bandits strayed in Tan-awan, Tubigon almost 60 kilometers from Tagbilaran City.
“I have myself come here to assure the world and the tourists that Bohol is safe,” the country’s highest tourism official said at the forum of Bohol tourism stakeholders after her tour.
Before she toured, Teo had a breakfast meeting with Gov. Edgar Chatto at the Governor’s Mansion and they again met at the forum held at the Bellevue Resort in Panglao.
Panglao island was the site of the recent highly-successful trade and industry meetings of the ministers and senior officials from the 10 countries and states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Chatto said Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Reg’l. Dir. Aster Caberte announced at the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) meeting in Cebu City on Wednesday that the second ASEAN Summit this year might be in Bohol in July.
The summit is the meeting of the state leaders themselves.
Chatto, meanwhile, welcomed China’s lifting of its travel advisory to its nationals, who may have now been much excited to see and enjoy Bohol.
Before she toured bringing along with her members of the national and regional media, Teo paid courtesy call on and had a breakfast meeting with Chatto at the Governor’s Mansion.
They were joined by some officers of the Provincial Tourism Council (PTC) led by their chairman, lawyer Lucas Nunag, Jr., and Bohol Association of Hotels, Resorts and Restaurants (BAHHR) under Romel Gonzales.
At noontime, Sec. Teo met with the tourism stakeholders during a luncheon meeting at Bellevue Resort.
During the open forum moderated by Peter Dejaresco, former chair of the Prov’l. Tourism Council, Sec. Teo assured that DOT will focus on Bohol after the reported cancellations of bookings following the reported attempt of the Abu Sayyaf to operate here. No matter how far Inabanga is from Panglao resorts and the Chocolate Hills, many bookings at the various resorts were cancelled due to their apprehension as to the peace and order in the province.
Sec. Teo assured that she will lead in the information drive all over the world to tell the people that Bohol is a safe place to travel.
The DOT official likewise assured to bring mediamen from Manila to promote Bohol and at the same time bring tour operators to help sell Bohol as a prime destination.
Chatto welcomed Teo with a video presentation of “Behold Bohol,” the province new tourism promotion branding, showcasing the beauties and wonders of the province.
He gave her a symbolic “key to the hearts of the Boholanos” and a book, “The Bohol We Love.”
Teo assured the Boholanos that she is actively promoting Bohol, especially to China, Japan and Korea which have the most number of tourists coming to the Philippines.
China already lifted its travel advisory last April 30.
Teo reassured the tourists that, despite the recent ASG incident, Bohol is a safe place to stay.
On the day of Teo’s visit, Chatto welcomed to Bohol two other visiting cabinet members — Science and Technology Sec. Fortunato dela Peña and Agriculture Sec. Emmanuel Piñol.
A good old friend, Dela Peña had a luncheon meeting with Chatto at the Governor’s Mansion.
Chatto talked by cellphone to Piñol, who proceeded to Pres. Garcia, an island-town, for a department assistance project ceremony where the governor was represented by SEEM Cluster head Liza Quirog and Board Member Agapito Avenido.
The tourism secretary was also accompanied by Usec. Falconi Millar and Reg’l. Dir. Judy Gabato.
They toured to Bohol’s prime tourist spots like the Chocolate Hills in Carmen, river cruise in Loboc, man-made forest in Bilar, and centuries-old Baclayon Church.
‘YOU ARE LUCKY’
“Napakaswerte ninyo sa (You are lucky in) Bohol because you have everything here. Tourists always ask for Cebu and Bohol,” Teo told the local tourism keyplayers and stakeholders during the forum.
She praised Bohol for its natural beauty and the consistent, aggressive effort of the provincial leadership for peace, internal security, development and welfare.
Chatto presented to the secretary Bohol’s initiatives to sustain the promotion of peace and prosperity.
He showcased the Countryside Development Program (CDP), highlighting the significance and effects of the Purok Power Movement (PPM), most critically during the ASG incident.
In turn, the governor assured everybody that Bohol is safe, where “tourists are welcomed but not the terrorists and illegal drug elements.”
“Welcome turista, bawal ang mga terorista at durogista!” Chatto exclaimed, coining in an instant a new Bohol slogan.
Representatives from tourist agencies had a good chance interacting with the tourism secretary during the forum.
Obviously, their main concern was the travel warning issued by some foreign embassies affecting Philippine tourism, as well as the false information spread on the social media.
Thus, Teo further assured she would not stop convincing the concerned embassies that such an issuance is unwanted.
At the forum, the Bohol Joint Task Force Dagon and TaRSIER 117 responses and coordination activities, as well as of the other participating agencies, were likewise tackled.
Teo expressed confidence in the courage, determination and resilience of the Boholanos in securing tourism while fully guarding and defending the land from imminent danger.
Chatto thanked the tourism secretary whom he expects to return for the Bohol Day and Sandugo Festival in July, which can be most memorable if the ASEAN Summit here will push through. (Ven rebo Arigo/Jasmine Reyes)