ANY BOHOLANO TRAVELING ABROAD and elsewhere in the Philippines- invariably gets tagged by the question: Is the new Panglao Airport really going to be operational soon?
This rather pesky skepticism is borne out of the fact that the idea of an international airport in Panglao has been a three-decade dream of most Boholanos, starting from the time former Governor Constancio “Nonoy” Torralba thought about a Panglao Tourist Estate with such a place of air entry. Can it happen now?
Five presidents after (Cory Aquino, Estrada, Ramos, Arroyo, Noy Aquino) – it is only now during the term of President Digong Duterte -this year, as a matter of exactitude,- that the once elusive dream will be realized in its bricks and mortar form.
Potentially- a million tourists, now reeking with higher rising expectation, will hanker to visit a Bohol, a Panglao island at least, to be equal to its renowned airport’s billing. Are we ready for this?
Unfortunately, a lot of homework still obviously has to be done. And we must wake up from this self-hypnotic euphoria and instead tackle bracks tacks reality and stringent new market demanding standards.
One can talk about environmental concerns, traffic, land transport and even professionalizing the whole tourism industry. It seems the industry is two steps behind the rhythm of the march to progress in Panglao island, for instance.
Lack of preparedness will not only offer a negative backlash on Bohol’s image to tourists but will be a turn-off as well to budding investors- ready to sink in their moolah to help spruce up the room numbers, quality restaurants, world-class land transport and professional managers and staff everywhere in the island. We can become half-baked for the role -and could get our own worst rude awakening.
It was probably long-time in coming that the regional directors of the concerned government agencies directly involved were recently summoned by Gov. Edgar Chatto to listen and every stakeholder to react pronto to the many concerns which could remain attended to until the new airport operates by August or September this year.
For starters,, Bohol needs to have its tourism industry police its own ranks as only 32% of the resorts in Panglao are diligently telling the truth as to their level of occupancy.
Their non-reporting by a majority of the resort owners is giving Bohol a very negative image as figures would say tourists’ arrivals in Bohol are dwindling year after year while public officials broadcast a million visitors came-based on air and seaport arrivals.
A “house in disorder” is how outsiders would view those tourist destinations whose figures are in a state of disarray. It’s like listening to someone narrate a sentence where the subject and predicate do not agree.
Let us remember that once we open ourselves to visits by direct flights from other countries- we must be ready to be compared with other countries of destinations of these street-smart tourists and investors. Are we ready, Watson?
While it behooves the tour industry to professionalize itself, the government should also wield the iron stick- impose strict measures on how to address the many concerns.
Tough pronouncements from the local government unit (LGU), provincial as well as the municipal levels strictly demanding that these resorts submit their correct figures as part of the basic requirements to continue to operate as a business concern – are in order.
The public is wondering why the LGUs could not impose this simple need to have the precise figures on tourists arrivals? We know that these resort owners will bend to an iron hand backed by a forceful political will.
But since they are used to just be tolerated and not forced to comply with the law, then they continue to ignore the appeal.. Perhaps an appeal is not the call for the day. Perhaps, a warning for a closure order will be the, more proper answer -so as to, so so speak, light a fire on their behinds to get a quick response.
How about on the more serious problem on the environment? There is the bigger need for stricter measures to let these resort owners comply with what is required particularly on the wastewater treatment facilities.
The reported high risk of coliform contamination and especially fecal excesses at the Alona beach area and others are enough reasons for the LGUs to raise their agitated voices and get these resort owners to put up their treatment facilities. Or dispose waste properly.
On record, we see that majority of the resorts do not have adequate waste management facilities. And why does government not strictly impose this when they hold the ace of being in a position not to issue a mayor’s permit or a renewal if these resorts will ignore the required wastewater treatment? The LGUs have that kind of wrestling “submission” hold on resorts. Where’s the rub?
Let us not wait that after we toast our champagne glasses and break them on the first airplane on the dock in September or August, President Digong, an environment-conscious president, will order resorts closed and thus even worsen our lack of rooms for visitors.
He threatened to do so in Boracay in the face of horror findings how the once crystal blue waters of that island paradise have been infiltrated by odious, officious and health-threatening organisms.
As of this writing, some 39 Boracay resorts have been ordered closed by the national police- which is the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources). Scores of others will follow.
Next on the radar of DENR are the islands of Coron in Palawan and Siargao in Mindanao. Pretty soon, the long arm of the law will also catch up with our Panglao offenders, believe us, gentlemen.
Other concerns include the eyesore of fishing boats fronting like toys in disarray fronting the resorts in Alona area and the presence of unscrupulous boatmen who victimize the tourists by charging exorbitant charges.
One time on this page did we earlier urge these operators to look at how orderly the boat positioning, travel and paying of charges are in the area in Puerto Princesa bringing folks to the once Seventh Wonder of the World there.
A side issue is the presence of colorum motorized bancas reportedly disturbing the process of getting their permits tags along with a long line of requirements. It is incredible how government imposes the same requirements for an ordinary motorized boat and to a big interisland vessel.
Of course, some of the solutions are needing legislation, either at the LGU level or perhaps Congress about certain government policies like those in the MARINA.
But, majority of the things to do and to prepare before the opening of the P7B new airport can be done at the enthusiastic behest of our local officials who are unfortunately needing a shot of Cobra or Gatorade to rev up their adrenaline to better the community they purport to serve (with so much promise during elections).
The new Bohol airport is barely six months away from opening thus we need to triple time in addressing these concerns.
Enough of those meetings and workshops because every session would simply just be another repetitious chance for the stakeholders to listen to the same monotonous set of problems, many still aching to death for the apt solutions up to now.
Let us not shame ourselves by being so unworthy of a world-class airport in our midst- that cost of which is P7.4 Billion of taxpayers’ money.
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