Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr. called the attention of Department of Tourism officials Thursday on the various undeveloped tourism sites in his province, which is best known for Boracay.
“Tinatanong ko po kung talagang may national strategic plan ang DoT because as far as I know, in Western Visayas, ay wala po (I’m asking if DoT truly has a national strategic plan because as far as I know, in Western Visayas, there is none),” Haresco said during the budget briefing of the DoT by the House Appropriations Committee.
“For example, I haven’t seen your tourism officers in my district. I rarely see your regional director,” claimed the Appropriations panel vice chairman, who enumerated local sites that could serve as tourist magnets if given proper attention by the national government.
“Within 30 minutes of Boracay, we have a (site) that foreigners like, it’s almost like Acapulco. It’s in Buruanga, Aklan. It’s undeveloped. We have a white beach in Buruanga, Aklan where Boracay Shangri-La just bought a piece of property (from), and the infra is undeveloped,” he said.
“We have a cold water spring that is just 30 minutes away from Boracay, that is also undeveloped. We have a river rafting as good as Pagsanjan Falls that is undeveloped,” added Haresco.
He underscored that his province is solely dependent on its income from tourism, thus the importance of developing more sites even during this lull caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“According to economists around the would, it will take the tourism industry about 18 months to get back,” he said.
Haresco said it is easy for his district to generate income for the national economy. “If 2.2 million tourists stayed one more day in West Aklan, and spent $200, that’s $400 million. Immediately, that translate to another P20 billion to GDP.”
DoT Undersecretary Art Moncato said that the identification of such projects are dealt with via “bottom-up approach” by the DoT and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
“Proposals were collected from the regional level, in fact down to the municipality level in terms of proposals and both the departments have put together a regional technical working group (TWG) that is participated in by our regional offices. Over the years we have put together a criteria that would see the value of such proposals in order for them to graduate as a tourism road,” he said.
Moncato said these proposals would need to go through community approval, local government approval, regional government approval, and then finally approval by the national TWG. “That is the process that takes more than half a year,” he noted.
“I’ve heard that a long time ago. But what if there is no ‘bottom?’ What if the regional doesn’t exist or does not work? What if the municipal has no access to the regional? What if the regional (officers) doesn’t go around the region?” a seemingly unconvinced Haresco said.