TAWI-TAWI, the southernmost province of the Philippines, registered a tourism boom with visitor arrivals increasing three folds this year compared to that of the previous year.
The province is attracting local and foreign tourists despite Mindanao has been placed under martial law since the second quarter of this year.
President Rodrigo Duterte has placed Mindanao under martial law when the ISIS-inspired Maute terror group laid siege in Marawi City.
“In one month, we can expect more than a thousand to about three thousand tourists both from (the country’s other provinces) and from outside the country,” Tawi-Tawi Provincial Tourism Officer Mobin Gampal said.
Gampal said, "the stable peace and order situation in our province” is one factor that attracts tourists to visit Tawi-Tawi. “Tourists do not request security personnel when they visit the province because they feel secured.”
He said the most visited places in Tawi-Tawi are the Bongao Peak (better known as Bud Bongao), Panampangan Island, Simunul, Sitangkai, Panguan Island, and the Turtle Island.
Meanwhile, he said Tawi-Tawi is ready to become the region’s top tourist destination with the increasing number of development and tourism projects, mostly initiated by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Since 2012, ARMM has placed more than P3 billion worth of projects in the province, including tourism infrastructure.
ARMM has developed Bud Bongao into an eco-tourism park with the construction of a visitor receiving center, waiting sheds, view decks, solar-powered post lights, concrete paved steps and handrails, and a 400-meter access road. This tourism project was supported by a P56 million budget from the regional government.
The inaugural climb of the Bud Bongao Eco-Toursim Park was held in July this year.
Gampal said entry to tourist spots in Tawi-Tawi is free of charge.
Gampal also underscored that accommodation, food, and other amenities in Tawi-Tawi are affordable and generally budget-friendly.
He said the lifestyle in the province is unique and “most of our tourists are coming to the province not only because of the place itself, but because of the life Tawi-Tawi has.”