Building on the progress achieved by the past administration has been a centerpiece in Governor Arthur Yap’s campaign for the governorship, and on Tuesday, 100 days after taking over the helm of the Capitol, he maintained his stand as he primarily laid out his plans to further grow the province’s burgeoning tourism industry.
Yap, in an hour-long speech, touched on multiple issues such as environmental protection, agriculture development and employment generation and linked these to the tourism sector which has been experiencing rapid growth over the past decade.
He also addressed issues on power, water supply, health, security and education.
“Once upon a time, this sleepy province had to be attached to Cebu as a one-day tour package. Today, the reverse is true. It is Cebu that is packaged into the Bohol tour experience. Our Bohol is sleepy no more,” said Yap who succeeded a close political ally, former governor Edgar Chatto after a nine-year reign.
According to Yap, Bohol needs to establish additional “tourism circuits” which will provide new experiences to tourists, beyond the usual Baclayon-Carmen countryside tour that is highlighted by a visit to the Chocolate Hills.
He particularly pinpointed the Abatan River, which cuts through the towns of Baliliihan, Cortes, Maribojoc, Antequera and Catigbian as one of new attractions that can be packaged for daytime and nighttime tours.
“Dili pwede na walang kamatayan na countryside tour. We have to find new complementary tourism circuits,” he said.
Promotion of the centuries-old churches that dot the province, meanwhile, is to be boosted with the upcoming 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines in 2021.
The governor also highlighted the need for Bohol to develop its culinary offerings, urging local government units to choose culinary “champions” who will promote the local cuisine.
“You can’t be a tourism center if you don’t have good food. When you land in a foreign country your first interaction with the country’s culture is through the food,” he said. “Today’s travelers want authentic sensory experiences.”
The Yap administration also aims at promoting Bohol as a sports tourism destination. Yap said that he has asked sports associations to submit an annual plan for sports events in 2020 as part of efforts to boost tourist influx.
Yap however noted that the initiatives to bolster tourism growth should also be paired with efforts to protect the environment and promote sustainability.
According to Yap, he has suspended all quarry permits in Bohol to conduct “an audit of quarrying operations” and boost monitoring of extractive activities in the province.
“Our objective is to check the state of use and exploitation of our natural resources, to regulate the same and charge the proper fees accordingly so the revenue can be used to further properly utilize our resources and support our other development projects,” Yap said.
The government is also moving to plant a million trees on land and in coastal areas in the next three years and, in “achievable phases by next year,” to ban the use of single-use plastics, he added.
In Panglao, which is deemed as Bohol’s crown jewel in tourism, the province-led Panglao Island Sustainable Tourism Task Force has been looking into environmental issues such as easement violations, water quality, sewerage and septage.
According to Yap, “95 percent” of the establishments along the world-famous Alona Beach in Panglao are already compliant with easement standards imposed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in 2008.
Meanwhile, the government is looking into partnering sustainable farms with resorts and hotels to provide farm communities direct access to the tourism market.
“We must be able to afford assistance to our farmers from farm to table: from water, financing for seeds and inputs, to post harvest machineries, and finding marketing partners for our farmers,” said Yap.
Beyond his plans for the tourism sector, which he has repeatedly highlighted since day one of his administration as means to address poverty and generate employment, the governor also touched on issues on power, water supply, health, security and education, among other topics.
*Below is the full text of Yap’s speech (without adlib):
TOURISM: BOHOL’S INDUSTRY
For more than a decade now, Bohol’s star has steadily risen as a tourism destination in the Philippines not only for foreign visitors, but for our own 40 million domestic tourists. Bohol is today a stand-alone tourism destination. Once upon a time, this sleepy Province had to be attached to Cebu as a one-day tour package. Today, it is Cebu that is packaged into the Bohol Tour Experience.
To sustain our upward trajectory, we need to understand what makes us unique from other Philippines destinations.
PROTECTING OUR WATERSHEDS, PLANTING TREES AND BEAUTIFYING BOHOL. To protect our environment, we have launched a program to plant millions of trees on land and in mangroves for the next three years to protect our coastal marine resources and watershed areas, to fight erosion, and provide a wide array of fruit trees for our people and visitors alike.
ADDRESSING WATER SUPPLY IN BOHOL. We must stress that the planting of trees is intimately related to water issues in the province. The annual calamity in Bohol is not the yearly typhoons. The on-going tragedy in Bohol is accepting that we can be without water for about 4-6 months each year.
Unless we ban water extraction from shallow underground sources, we will be reduced to an island province of sinkholes with a very high case of citizens with kidney disease.
Even as we speak, this is a crisis today, with at least ten municipalities having declared states of calamities with more to follow. As we move to drier months, the projected impact is that the lack of water will affect more than 100,000 farmers.
It is for this reason that I have ordered the immediate identification of critical areas where the LGU, and other agencies can assist in distributing emergency drinking water and food packs, establishing drip irrigation systems from possible water sources, to give our farmers alternatives from planting rice, and organizing our farmers into work teams to begin repairing water catchment basins and impounding systems in a food for work program.
To date, we are finalizing the action plan after having met Bohol’s Mayors yesterday for implementation in the coming weeks.
WATER FOR WATERLESS ISLAND BARANGAYS
Clustering barangays will also be the strategy we will adapt to provide water to places where people have practically given up the hope of having water: I am referring to waterless island barangays.
Of all waterless barangays, island baranggays are the most pitiful, for our fellow Bol-anons are born, live and die there, amidst a state of perpetual water scarcity.
I am therefore happy to inform you that five desalination plants for drinking water are now undergoing procurement where they will be initially installed in the following island barangays: PANDANON (GETAFE), HINGOTANAN WEST (BIEN UNIDO), BILANG-BILANGAN (BIEN UNIDO), GUINDACPAN (TALIBON), AND CATABAN (TALIBON).
PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT IN PANGLAO. In the last 100 days, we have also been hard at work with hotel operators and the local government of Panglao, and other government agencies through the Province-led Panglao Island Sustainable Tourism Task Force to address issues of easement violations, water quality, sewerage and septage in our premier tourism gateway.
I am happy to report that we are more than 95 percent compliant with DENR-imposed 2008 easement standards for Alona Beach. I foresee closer and more regular interactions between the members of this Task Force as the work of maintaining Panglao in tip-top shape will be a continuing one.
Soon, we will look into the issue of foreign workers with no visas, unregulated dive shop operators, and other measures preserving and conserving our underwater marine resources not only for Balicasag, but for Bohol.
PROTECTING OUR GROUND-RESOURCES. To underscore the need to monitor the use and exploitation of our natural or ground resources, I issued Executive Order Number 4 suspending all quarry permits and conducting an audit of quarrying operations. Our objective is to check the state of use and exploitation of our natural resources, to regulate the same and charge the proper fees accordingly so
the revenue can be used to further properly utilize our resources and support our other development projects.
WASTE DISPOSAL. As we welcome more visitors to Bohol, we have noticed the geometric increase in our garbage, especially in our plastic litter. In the days to come, I will convene the Mayors to address the issue of the Albur Landfill as the TIEZA has informed me two weeks ago that it is seeking an audit of the operations of the landfill considering that the project was a grant from the TIEZA.
We will also make a plan with our Mayors and stakeholders to ban the use of single use plastic containers and plastic bags in Bohol, in achievable phases by next year.
POWER. Even the issue of power, so vitally needed at this point in time in the Province’s economic development, has not been spared from inclusion in the pro- environment discussions.
The Province maintains a “no to coal policy” and has been clear in opting for clean, dependable, reliable, cost efficient and renewable sources of energy.
We therefore call for the Distribution Utilities to be transparent when they bid for their power requirements in the coming months, and stay true to the aspirational plans of our people to have an “in-island” power source to prevent what transpired after typhoon Yolanda in 2013, when we lost our power for almost two months, and source energy along the terms and conditions as stated above.
In the meantime, we must continue to stay close to the ERC and ensure that our initial victory of lowering our power rate charges last July will be given a second round of reductions.
If you will recall, barely two weeks into my office, I was forced to act and make representations with the ERC, together with Congressman Edgar M. Chatto and our DU’s, regarding the exorbitant charging of electric rates.
As it happened, our intervention was able to highlight the erroneous way of computing power charges which gave way to an initial price reduction on our bills.
However, there is still a second round of reductions underway which will not only affect Bohol but other provinces due to the adjustments that will be made. We must see this through.
OTHER CRITICAL CONCERNS FOR A TOURISM ECONOMY. But to ensure that a tourism economy remains vibrant for its clients, there are other issues that must be addressed: Bohol’s culinary experience, transportation accessibility, physical and digital connectivity, upgrading our labor services sector, and deepening the unique experience of Bohol through our faith- and culture-based tourism.
PHYSICAL and DIGITAL CONNECTIVITY. In the last two months, we have been meeting with transport groups, the LTFRB and the LTO, and we will soon launch a system to unify and standardize the operations and rates of transportation in major tourism areas, professionalize transport accessibility, and rationalize the charging of rates. We confirm that the LTO and LTFRB will be coming to Bohol upon the invitation of the Provincial Government to set up operations locally.
Neither will we forsake transportation connectivity to other destinations. I am happy to announce that the PPA will continue the development of the Tubigon Port, Catagbacan Port in Loon, the Maribojoc Port, Jagna Port, Ubay Port, as well as the opening up of the Getafe Port. The Loon and Getafe Ports this early are being designated as possible future cruise terminal ports. However, we are committed to ensure that CPG will not be left behind for which reason, we will ask PPA to fund the development of Aguining Port as a gateway to Bohol from Leyte, and Popoo Port to connect to Tapal Wharf in Ubay.
The Provincal Government of Bohol (PGBh) is ready to invest in these infrastructures, together with counterpart national agencies, if need be.
Connectivity must also encompass digital connectivity in this WIFI-connected world. The PGBh will continue engaging mobile phone and data companies to strengthen and expand their services in Bohol.
BOHOL’S CULINARY TRADITIONS. We must also deepen the Bohol culinary experience by finding champions of our cuisine and passing down the traditions through a provincial culinary program. We will institutionalize this program when we build our own tech-voc training facilities for HRM services in one of our province-owned properties.
It is time to establish a Provincial Training Institute, in partnership with the private sector, so our youth and middle managers can continuously undergo training and practicums to upgrade skills and knowledge. Today’s travelers want authentic sensory experiences. We must afford that through unobtrusive, quiet, reliable, efficient and affordable services.
BOHOL AGRICULTURE, AGRI-TOURISM AND MORE TOURISM CIRCUITS. We must be mindful that our culinary traditions and innovations are only a function of how strong our agriculture and fisheries program is.
This is the reason why our agriculture and fisheries program must focus on land consolidation to produce food in scale and lower costs. For this to happen, we must be able to afford assistance to our farmers from farm to table: from water, financing for seeds and inputs, to post harvest machineries, and finding marketing partners for our farmers.
Sustainable farms will then be partnered with hotels and resorts to give our farm communities direct access to the tourism market.
Investing in town markets will be part of this strategy. Markets today do not only serve to make agriculture commerce vibrant and active, but become tourist destinations themselves, showcasing not only food but providing a center to sell our one-town-one-product wares. These initiatives will open more income streams to our farmers, beyond farm activities.
CREATING MORE TOURISM CIRCUITS. The factors we have discussed are very critical in creating a viable and sustainable tourism circuit. These factors must be imbedded in every tourism circuit Bohol presently has and will further create. And create new circuits Bohol must do.
The present countryside tour of Baclayon to Carmen must be strengthened with these and new attractions while the Abatan Municipalities of Balilihan, Cortes, Maribojoc, Antequera and Catigbian must now come together to provide a daytime and evening package to afford tourists a new experience.
Two years down the road, we are hoping that the ports of Getafe, Tubigon, Loon, Maribojoc and possibly Buenavista, will provide additional gateways into Bohol.
This will now afford more than 30% of Bohol’s municipalities a chance to showcase their products, sights and sounds, but still, the basic considerations we discussed involving the protection and conservation of the environment, water, power, connectivity, food, skills upgrading will hold true.
To highlight the beauty of our natural and physical terrain, and in the hopes of creating tourism sports circuits, I have asked our sports associations to submit for 2020, an annual plan to hold sports events as a means to increase tourist arrivals, and encourage youth participation to prepare them for possible inclusion in our regional and national sports teams.
Events will be held province-wide, to allow local municipalities to showcase the tourism potential of their areas. More importantly, this is an effort, to use the culture of sports to keep our youth away from drugs and instill in them, good virtues to prepare them for the larger game of LIFE.
TINGOG SA MGA BOLANON. In the past three months, I have made it a habit to conduct personal townhall meetings all over Bohol under the banner program: TINGOG SA MGA BOLANON. It is my effort to stay close to our fellow Bol-anons not only do deliver aid and assistance where it is needed, but more importantly, to engage the people in discussions to learn from them and know of their needs.
To date, baranggay leaders from more than 50 baranggays have come to the Provincial Capitol to personally receive assistance from the Governor, while I have visited more than 50 barangays in 15 Municipalities outside of the Capitol, with most of these places visited in remote island baranggays.
By personally visiting many of our poorest barangays, the voices of our people are asking us to address their medical, educational and rural development needs, now.
MODERNIZING OUR PROVINCIAL HOSPITALS. It is these engagements which prodded me to submit to the SP more than 400 million pesos in equipment and infrastructure modernization for the Province’s ten hospitals.
Included in that initiative is the pay upgrade of our nurses and physicians so we can keep up with Government pay for medical staff. New ambulances, on land or on sea, and new hospital diagnostic equipment, shall be the centerpiece of this modernization plan.
EXPANDING ACADEMIC SCHOLARSHIPS and JOB OPPORTUNITIES for the YOUTH of BOHOL.
The desire of our youth to be educated cannot also be stemmed. The youth are clamoring for more scholarship and internship funds. I am not one to let you down. In the less than three months I have sat as your Governor, I have accommodated more than 5,000 young Bol-anons, in the DOLE’s Government Internship Program.
To date, the mass employment we have given our youth in the last month alone is unprecedented in Central Visayas.
Honoring our Padayon Bolanon campaign pledge to increase academic scholarships, I am submitting to our SP under the leadership of Vice Governor Rene Relampagos, a budget that will increase our scholarships by 50% in the coming three years. I am sure he will champion this as he did champion the Carlos P. Garcia Scholarships, when he was Governor and Congressman Edgar Chatto was his Vice Governor many summers ago.
OPENING UP HINTERLAND BARANGAYS TO TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT.
My visits to our isolated and hinterland baranggays also make me aware of the great need to open up and repair baranggay roads to connect to municipal and provincial roads.
As I have already said, connectivity is everything to tourism and trade. For this reason, I am submitting in the Provincial Budget,the amount of 218 million pesos, for the procurement of road building equipment.
Our objective is to achieve basing two fleets of road building equipment per district at the disposal of the assigned congressional district for the farm to market road repair needs of the concerned municipalities.
ESTABLISHMENT OF AN INNOVATION HUB and BUSINESS ASSISTANCE CENTER FOR OUR ENTREPRENEURS.
It is therefore time to build an innovation and incubation center for our entrepreneurs so in a one stop facility, our entrepreneurs can plan new products, work on their pricing and packaging, meet clients, seal partnerships, and roll of new and innovate products.
The PGBh will put up an innovation center together with the DTI and other relevant Government Agencies, not only to get new ideas and turn them into products, but to assist entrepreneurs set up shop, and begin operations through a BOHOL INNOVATION HUB with a built in Business Assistance Center.
THE MEANS and PARTNERSHIPS TO MAKE THINGS HAPPEN.
FINALLY, to transform all of these things to reality, FUNDS, COMPETENCE AND PARTNERSHIPS are the keys. We may have fantastic plans, but without funds and clear plans run by competent people, and supported by the many, then plans merely stay in the blue-print stage.
For this reason, we must continually engage national agencies, government financial institutions, as well as multi-lateral agencies like the World Bank, and the ADB, among others, for budgetary support, loans and capacity building funds. Our ability to source project funds will be severely tested and will call for the creation of a new office just focused for that objective.
On the issue of internally generated funds, the Provincial Government must have a tight hold on its financial situation, maximize commercial opportunities and assets, and practice prudent fiscal discipline. In my time, I will pursue a very aggressive program to increase the Province’s revenue base starting with a plan to submit to the SP, a plan to look at every facet of income streams to the Provincial coffers and maximizing them for use in our Programs.
Supporting our employees does not only mean we train them. Supporting our employees also means looking after their own critical needs. In the Provincial Government, we have launched a health card program and a housing program for our employees. We will not be able to do half of what we have planned if our employees are not competent nor motivated. In that regard, to assure each striving employee the chance for promotion and advancement, we will finish our plans of consolidating and collapsing positions, in time to submit to the SP, a right sizing Bill for the PGBh bureaucracy.
Key among these partnerships are those involving our security and disaster preparedness posture. Allow me then to announce that Tarsier 117, will be expanded around Bohol and their equipment and training needs supported. I am further happy to announce that Bohol has been established as the Visayas Army Training Center in Tubigon, and is working to be established as the PA Riverine Training School Center in the Country.
Our partnership with the Coast Guard is resurgent with the establishment of a radar station in Balicasag Island and our facilitating the establishment of new Coast Guard training facilities in San Agustin, Talibon. Not to be outdone, the PNP has established two companies of the SAF in Batuan and Mabini. Orchestrating this will be a Central Command Center that will integrate security operations with Disaster Preparedness.
As the first 100 days of the Yap-Relampagos Administration draw to a close, I have striven to simplify our program of government : 1) care of the weak 2) conserve our environment 3) re awaken our culture and 4) expand our tourism economy.
To make this a reality, let me speak to all of you from the heart: Join me. Help me. Take my hand in partnership. Move on and move away from fault finding and excessive politicking.
While we are alive in this world, our only goal is the welfare of our people, our only prayer is the safety of our loved ones, our only hope is the prosperity of our country, while we live in peace in the world.
To my co-workers in Government, PRRD asks this from us in his 2019 SONA:
“I implore those who occupy positions of power and authority, to let your deeds and accomplishments do the talking. Lead by example. Words ring hollow when not followed by positive and prioritized action.”
Buhat maoy pasultion, dili sulti ang pabuhaton.