TOURISM : CAPACITY AND ENVIRONMENT

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TOURISM : CAPACITY AND ENVIRONMENT

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cartoon editorialIS  BOHOL , a crown tourism jewel,  ready for the Big Surge of Tourism soon?

Based on the renowned Japanese  reputation for time management and precision – the realization  of the ages-long  dream of the New Bohol Panglao International Airport will  be  by  the middle of 2018, since the contract through Japan international Cooperation Agency (JICA) says it’s a 30-month job to implement. 

The new airport is the “key” for Bohol’s tourism wholesale development -which explains the wide-eyed enthusiasm of  the big names among the  resorts and hotels today to come over here.  But isn’t it that 2018 is a good 3.5 years away for completion from today- and that – that’s a lot of lost opportunities if we just sit and wait? We sincerely think so.

Serious setbacks currently bedevil us like the small existing runway of the Tagbilaran City Airport where a one-plane policy puts to risk the arrivals and departures of the riding public whenever a plane get stalled at the tarmac-with the long overdue emergency ramp up for completion only  by August.

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Is it not yet too late in the day  for the  present government leadership  to lobby to top DOTC( Department of Transportation and Communication)  officials-  that the emergency ramp, be instead  utilized as an  airport  extension even with just an improvised terminal building beside it ?  Our thesis is that three and half years represent  a huge chunk of tourism business going instead  to other destinations simply because we lack the capacity to absorb more flights.

Such a revised arrangement means  more flights and avoiding  the risk of flights getting delayed and cancelled due to runway congestion. (That has made many swear never to return to Bohol again for the gross inconvenience it carries). It can mean investors are going to build more room capacity in the interim while the Big One in Panglao opens with a huge red carpet welcome in 2018. Instead of  Bohol losing the investors’ valued interest- their necks swayed to provinces with better absorptive capacity for tourists’ influx.

Already,  we marveled at the new 800 to 900 additional room accommodation with the opening of Henann Resort and B Resort , aside from the mushrooming of  boutique resorts in Panglao ,  Anda, and the Tagbilaran capital city.

Thinking forward,   more rooms to accommodate guests, could mean  some  good preparation to make Tagbilaran City as the new “convention destination”. Verily, the biggest business segment of the tourism industry -worldwide- caters  to the meeting, convention, entertainment  types of tourism.Ask the DOT.

The truly “Big Ticket”  items require a convention center or entertainment  site that can house  some 10,000 to 20,000 people. The market for conventions, concerts, basketball games is a huge business proposition. Explain, for instance,  why the humongous investment of the Shoemart Group in the Mall of Asia and the even the INC in its  Philippine Arena -even in faraway Bulacan which can reportedly house double that of the iconic Araneta Coliseum.?

But, this can hardly happen  if we don’t  improve our existing Tagbilaran Airport (while waiting for the P7B airport project done).  The green light signals are there to see- it’s a pity.

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Indication of progress is the recent opening of Henann Resort, the biggest resort in  Bohol  now with 400 well appointed rooms along the white sandy shorelines of Alona. The corollary spike  that  can never be denied is  that the entry of this resort under hotelier ______________ will ignite the leveling off of room rates from among the resorts here,

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Over the years, we always  hear the bad reviews of Bohol being  an “expensive” destination. But with  Henann offering room rates at P5K for local visitors,  it will trigger other resorts to rationalize their room rates – thereby slowly eradicating that “expensive image” as a destination.

Even the cuisine quality and prices   are improving  and raised new bars of culinary standards with the  Boholanos welcoming  with gratitude the Henann Resort’s buffet going for  for as a low as P280 -P340 with a five-star setting. Only a couple of years ago, the landscape of Bohol tourism changed dramatically  with the opening of the five-star Bellevue Resort of Johnny Chan. B Resort of the Benedictos had its soft opening and more are yet to come -if Bohol proves absorptive capacity for more visitors.Change has truly began.

The second issue that comes to the fore in our frenzied rush towards  tourism development is the destruction of the environment. Not to prepare for its preservation is to lay the foundation for the  eventual destruction of the very thing that made tourism prosper here  -our very own Mother Nature and her environment.

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Take the garbage disposal system. We all hear about the P300 million Albur Cluster Sanitary Landfill which until now has not been completed. The public is fed up with the controversies  of  this project- they want solutions.  We know that TIEZA is working out for the completion of the project while Albur  Mayor Efren Tungol continues in his tirades against alleged lapses in the construction.

Garbage-and lack of  its proper disposal-  has partially destroyed the tourism industry in Egypt and Mexico. Stench repels tourists and coliform bacteria  from sewage disposal -not properly  channeled to sanitary landfills- will destroy the algae that protects the corals- needed to make your sand white as can be.  Coral reefs are a natural protection against the wave surges -which with unrestrained momentum can erode the sand and destroy the seashore  ambiance.

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Human capacity for healthy swimming at sea is  rated at 1,000 most probable number (mpn) of coliform bacteria per 100 millimeters and imagine the fact that dumping sewage to sea contains 46,000 (mpn) of such bacteria. It is a race against time-and all we do at times  is gaze at our navels by the seaside while politicians and bureaucrats shout their throats hoarse over public credits.

We should  not remain in this situation. One day, we should have that much needed sanitary landfill. We wish to hear the mayors concerned especially those from Tagbilaran City and Panglao where the garbage disposal needs much attention due to the fast growing economy attendant to tourism development.

Another  environmental concern is  the aborted plan to construct a temporary port in Tangnan, Panglao which will be used as the receiving port of the heavy equipment and materials  reportedly needed for the construction of the New Bohol Airport. We heard much righteous  objection on the proposed port despite  the  likewise  valid concern that there would  be traffic congestion at the Tagbilaran Port and along Gallares street  once the heavy equipment starts to arrive soon-now that the  airport construction is about to begin.

We pointed out to the provincial leadership that since our existing city port and the roads leading to Panglao cannot  anymore be widened at this time, then  it stands to reason that  that the arrivals and  movement of these heavy equipment and materials must be done strictly during night time, starting at 9:00 pm after the arrival of the last fast craft from Cebu City up to 6:00 in the morning

The track ban in Metro Manila’s major thoroughfares until 10 pm in the evening is very instructive.

A nine-hour daily traffic-free road to Panglao would very well  be the answer-  sufficient to bring these needed materials and equipment, without worsening the traffic congestion at the city port nor raising environmental issues in the construction of a temporary port in Panglao.

We cannot grow tourism without  a  game plan.  Hawaii, all these decades, attracts visitors -and even showcases to this day its magnificence in the TV series “Hawaii Five-O” circa 2015. Long before, in wanting to  arrest the carbon emissions of vehicles, Hawaii became  a great believer in electric cars and allowed tons of them inside  plus  the government installed   electric power charging tools in the island- free to motorists.

Many such similarly minded tourist destinations- provide bicycle lanes and even horseback tours in their islands to prevent gas proliferation of the atmosphere  and even kayaking instead of speedboats and the like,  They care about the future of tourism -so they take  care for the environment.

Boracay to us , lovely as it is, appears to us  like “tourism gone wild”. From a backpackers’ paradise in the 70’s – it now serves 1.4 million visitors with 300 resorts and about 200 restaurants plus bars, coffee shops, massage parlors and what have yous.  Many violate the sanitary and sewerage law -protected by politicians and corrupt men at the DENR.

They also have a multi-billion reclamation project nearby that is already raising a lot of howls for the environmental rape that ensued as a consequence.

No, Bohol should not follow Boracay’s tourism trap- development at whatever cost. Let’s make haste slowly- build our absorptive capacities ( has anybody asked how many swimming pools and golf courses can Bohol’s  current water supply sustain?, for instance)and make sure we provide a protective mantel over Mother Nature.

She has given us everything for free- how dare we destroy her graces by greed and neglect?

For comments: email to dejarescobingo@yahoo.com or bohol-rd@mozcom.com

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