Lack of resources poses major threat to Ilocos tourism industry
by Cristina Arzadon
SAN NICOLAS, Ilocos Norte (8 August) -- Tourism stakeholders in four Ilocos tourist destinations agreed that lack of capability to address the effects of natural disasters more than the security threat posed a major concern to the tourism industry in their areas.
Composed primarily of beach resorts, tourist destinations in the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Pangasinan and La Union are vulnerable to floods and tidal waves during typhoons causing damages to facilities and structures.
The four provinces boast of pristine beaches, which normally attract droves of tourists during the summer period.
The concern was raised last week during the two-day Executive Forum on Disaster and Security Management: Focus on Tourism Industry among resort owners, police and air force officers, search and rescue teams and government and non-government representatives.
Forum organizers, the Department of National Defense, National Defense College of the Philippines and the Department of Tourism, will hold similar forum in seven other anchor destinations in Banaue,Ifugao, Subic, Manila, Cebu, Palawan and Davao. Laoag was the second launch of the forum next to Boracay.
The participants for example cited flooding, clogging of canals near riverbanks and weak notification system during typhoon periods as major hazards posed on the tourism industry.
Councilor Jojie Jimenez, of Burgos town, for example cited an incident last year at Saud beach in Pagudpud where Chinese nationals, unaware of a bad weather, went scuba diving and went missing for days before they were finally found along the shores of nearby Bangui Bay after being swept by strong waters.
The world-renowned Paoay Church in Paoay town, also a world heritage religious icon, is often submerged in floodwaters during typhoons.
A team of foreign technical engineers has also found that the Paoay church is vulnerable to ground movements caused by passing heavy motor vehicles forcing local officials there to close down the roads surrounding the church to heavy vehicles. Only light vehicles such as cars are allowed to pass through the roads.
"We may formulate the most effective plan to address these concerns but we do not have the resources to implement them," Jimenez said.
Marcy Borromeo, deputy director of the Emergency Institute of the Philippines, said the concerns raised during the forum shall be submitted to the Tourism department for its consideration during the policy-drawing stage of contingency plans.
Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano has targeted a volume of 5 million tourists to the Philippine by 2010.
According to Durano, the volume can be achieved if tourism planners can maintain safe and secured tourist destinations all over the country. (PIA Ilocos) [top]