Rehab plan for Central Visayas underway

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Friday, December 6, 2013


THE recent earthquake and typhoon that hit Central Visayas destroyed P5 billion to P6 billion worth of public infrastructure, agriculture and livestock, said National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) 7 Officer-in-charge Efren Carreon.

The Department of Tourism (DOT), on the other hand, urged travel agencies and tour operators to organize tours and set aside a portion of their proceeds for rebuilding efforts in typhoon-ravaged areas, said DOT 7 Director Rowena Montecillo said in an interview.

In a press conference organized yesterday by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Carreon said a national rehabilitation plan is underway to revive the economy of affected areas, including Cebu and Bohol.

Carreon said that while the Oct. 15 earthquake left several public infrastructure either destroyed or damaged, super typhoon Yolanda wrecked havoc on agriculture and livestock, including the poultry industry in Bantayan Island.

Employment

Carreon said the government's rehabilitation effort in typhoon and earthquake-ravaged areas will create employment for the poor, who bear the brunt of the calamities.

“A big component of the National Government's rehabilitation plan is shelter, which will require skilled workers, and in turn creates opportunities for poor families,” he said.

For the rehabilitation, the National Government will allocate an amount “much bigger” than the amount of damage caused by the calamities.

Dubbed “Bangon Tours,” the DOT program aims to showcase 16 tourism sites across the country.

Montecillo said tour operators may donate to the foundation of their choice. “We will come up with guidelines to ensure proper accounting of the donation,” she added.

Tourism

She said they are in talks with tourism establishments for the Bangon Tours, which will feature 16 tourism sites, including Cebu, Bohol, Boracay, Iloilo, Siargao and Batanes.

The DOT is also working with the US Agency for International Development (USAid) for the recovery of Cebu and Bohol's tourism sector.

Montecillo said the DOT and USAid is drawing a recovery plan that may include a rebranding of Bohol's tourism.

The plan will also include a communication strategy aimed at infoming tourists about destinations in Cebu and Bohol that remain safe despite the recent calamities.

It will also include promotion of less known tourist sites in the islands.

Cancellation

Montecillo said she received reports of cancelled visits to Cebu and Bohol following the earthquake and the typhoon, but they are still consolidating the figures.

“We are convincing those who have booked their visits to Cebu and Bohol not to cancel their bookings, but to just re-schedule it,” she said.

She said tourists can also enjoy activities like diving outside of popular diving destinations like Malapascua and Daanbantayan.

"Establishments in these popular diving destinations are trying to get up on their feet right away," she said.

Montecillo sees the absence of power supply as a hindrance in the speedy recovery of the tourism sector in northern Cebu.

Power

She said she hopes the Bantayan Electric Corp. can provide electricity in the island sooner than six months, the reported period it will take the firm to restore power lines.

Montecillo said about 10 of the 40 to 50 resorts in the island have resumed their operation.

She said they are careful in issuing travel advisories on the resumption of services by tourism establishments in the affected areas. "We cannot give incomplete information to our tourists," she said.

From January to August this year, 2.2 million domestic and foreign tourists visited Central Visayas. The DOT 7 aims to attract 3.03 million visitors this year.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 06, 2013.

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