Top trader adopts tourism as development strategy-A A +A
Thursday, July 5, 2012
MAASIN CITY -- A top official of the Southern Leyte Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SLCCI) is ambitious -- he wants to get rid of the “Ninjas” in the province.
“Ninjas” is a misnomer for constituents here who have “No Income, No Jobs, (and) No Assets,” and SLCCI president Engr. Robert Castañares’s group is serious in eradicating these along with the local government leaders via public-private partnership (PPP).
The two sectors envisioned to turn the province into “the playground of Eastern Visayas” by 2013, capitalizing on its tourism industry to generate jobs and opportunities to its locals.
“The objective is to attract visitors from Eastern and Central Visayas (Region 8 and 7) in order to increase the province’s consumer-base and eventually spur economic activities,” he said.
He said manufacturing is almost zero in the province, and businesses here are mostly small-scale comprising around 95 percent. Most of them are having less than P3 million in capital.
Its biggest employer, however, is its local government units, providing jobs to around 80 percent of its populace either as job orders, casuals and regular employees.
Also, the bulk of its economic development mainly depends on the income revenue allotment (IRA) from the National Government.
For other sources of income, locals rely on market vending, farming, fishing and coconut and abaca growing. However, he said coconut and abaca farms are on “saturation” phase and have been damaged due to deadly plant diseases.
“We’ll make the province as place of recreation instead, where people will come and spend their money here,” he said, adding that once they reach the critical number of visitors, they will use it to justify the opening of an airport in the province’s capital Maasin.
“We’re going for man-made attractions [that] are only found in Southern Leyte,” he said.
With the ongoing construction of five tourism hubs in five different towns, the province eyes at least 200,000 tourists yearly by 2013, he said.
Eastern Visayas now has 4.1 million in population.
“If these 200,000 tourists will be spending a minimum of P2,000 for a day’s visit, the province would earn P400 million,” he said,
Last April 2011, the province opened its first Agas-Agas Adventure Park located at Agas-Agas bridge (in Sogod), the tallest in the country, which now features extreme sports facilities like zipline and cable car rides on its 377-feet-high and 1.5-kilometer bridge.
In the coming months, bungee jumping and all-terrain vehicles will be also put in the area.
On June 30, the province formally opened to the public the first Maasin Zoo and Theme Park covering 25 hectares of the 320-hectare Maasin City forest park.
“Maasin Zoo is one of a kind in the entire Visayas region. We are targeting the more than one million elementary and high schools students plus excursionists to come to our province,” Castañares said.
The zoo features tigers, tarsiers, camels, crocodiles, exotic birds, monkeys and snakes, among others, that are shipped from Subic and abroad.
There are also facilities for horse-back riding, camel riding, mini-horse riding, camping and other family or group themed activities.
Castañares said the chamber spent P6 million for the animals, while the local government spent P3 million for cages and maintenance.
Southern Leyte’s man-made attractions on the pipeline include canopy walk atop 50-foot virgin forest cover in Silago; 100-meter high cross complete with elevator, viewing deck and coffee shops at the historic Limasawa island; and the development of Napantau Dive Resort in San Francisco town on Panaon Island with its 30 dive sites.
Aside from tourism development, Castañares said the chamber in partnership with the local government units will soon implement the coconut rehabilitation road map, which the chamber helped put together.
“This aims to increase the production level of coconut from 800 million per year to at least 1.4 billion by 2018 through massive replanting and fertilization with the help of Philippine Coconut Authority,” he said. (Leyte Samar Daily Express)