PGMA kicks off Central Philippines Tourism Tour in Donsol
Manila (23 February) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo kicked off her tour of the Central Philippines Tourism super region yesterday (February 22, 2010) with a visit to the municipality of Donsol in Sorsogon that has been cashing in on the development of world-class tourist destinations in the Bicol Region.
Bicol is part of Tourism Central Philippines super region, one of five growth corridors identified in President Arroyo's super region development strategy that is known for its natural wonders and rich cultural heritage.
The tourism super region accounts for 50 percent of the country's tourism industry.
In 2008, foreign visitors to the country totaled 3.14 million.
Donsol, which used to be a sixth-class, sleepy, remote fishing village in the northwestern part of Sorsogon,is now a first-class municipality that derives the bulk of its revenues from eco-tourism.
Its major eco-tourism activity is whale shark watching and interaction that has made it the "Whale Shark Capital of the World."
Moreover, its whaleshark watching was featured as"Best Animal Encounter in Asia" by Time Magazine in 2004.
"The whale shark interaction has changed the lives of the people here," the President said.
The President met with Allan Amanse, one of the beneficiaries of the development of eco-tourism in the municipality. He used to earn a measly P100 a day as a fisherman and tricycle driver. Now, he earns ten times what he used to earn or about P1,000 a day by being a whale shark or butanding interaction guide.
Characterized by silvery polka dots all over its body, butanding is a big fish measuring between 15 feet and 40 feet.
The President also noted the increase in the number of beach resorts in the area.
"In Bicol, we have the biggest fish, which is the butanding, and the smallest fish--the sinasarapan?found in Lake Buhi in Camarines Sur," the President noted.
The President said government plans to build an international airport in Daraga, Albay so tourists need not come from Manila to visit Donsol. Instead, foreign tourists from Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, among others can fly directly to Albay.
There are four key eco-tourism destinations in Bicol identified in the list of key tour sites of the country: Mayon Volcano in Albay, Mt. Isarog in Camarines Sur, whaleshark interaction here in Donsol, and the Bulusan Lake in Bulusan in Sorsogon.
The President further said that with the rich natural wonders, long beaches and eco-tourism sites in Central Philippines, government's task is to provide more roads, airports, and bridges to make these destinations more readily accessible to tourists.
Despite the global economic slump, foreign and local tourists reached 5.2 million in the first nine months of 2009 year-on-year or 17 percent higher than the same period during the previous year.
Tourism growth could be traced in part to massive investments made by government in tourism-related infrastructure in the Central Philippines super regions since 2001 when the President assumed office. These included 42 airport projects costing P27.31 billion; 108 ports constructed by the Philippine Ports Authority costing P8.76 billion and 145 municipal ports costing P1.23 billion; 8,783 kilometers of roads and 18,741 meters of bridges costing P54.14 billion; and the P52.44-billion Southrail project.
This year, the Department of Tourism projects foreign tourist arrivals at 3.27 million, generating direct revenues of $3.31 billion and employment of 3.39 million.
As an industry, tourism is expected to generate revenues of $17 billion this year, which is equivalent to 13.6 percent of the national gross domestic product (GDP) or the total sum of goods and services produced in the country. (PIA-MMIO) [top]