Sagada tourism slumps-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Sunday, September 15, 2013
MOUNTAIN Province's top tourist destination is still recovering from the sudden decline of tourist arrivals due to the clashes of government troops with the New People's Army (NPA) and the accident in Sumaguing Cave.
Sagada Mayor Eduardo Latawan said reports have been coming in saying several tourists cancelled their trips to the town due to the closure of the Sumaguing Caves to visitors and the recent clashes between government troops and the NPA rebels in Barangay Aguid.
Latawan said they are now evaluating their rules in accommodating tourists inside the cave, especially during the rainy season.
He belied reports saying tourists went inside the cave at the height of heavy monsoon rains despite being disallowed by their tourist information center.
Latawan explained that the tourists, who included 13 Japanese nationals, went inside the cave in the morning when the weather was still favorable. He said the weather, however, suddenly changed in the afternoon when strong rains caused a flashflood, resulting in the trapping of some 30 tourists inside.
The body of 49-year-old Irene Manaois has not yet been found after several days of search by the Philippine Coast Guard divers and local rescuers.
Latawan, meanwhile, said that while he understands the legitimate operation of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Barangay Aguid, he is not pleased with them not consulting the local government regarding their operations, which included an air strike that traumatized villagers.
He said even the Sagada PNP were not informed about the operations.
He also said that the town, as a peace zone since 1989, should not have been a site for both rebels and government troops to exchange fires nor use their weapons.
Latawan said several communities near the encounter site heard loud explosions and gunfire due to the encounter.
He said, though, that the local government remains optimistic that amid all the negative publicity due to the past two incidents, the town, known for its cool temperature, beautiful sceneries and caves, will be able rise up from the setbacks.
The mayor encouraged visitors to stay in the backpacker's paradise.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on September 15, 2013.