THE Department of Tourism-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DOT-Armm) bared on Monday, January 30, the Tawi-Tawi province’s tourist arrivals in 2016 reached around one million, an upward trend despite security issues lurking the province.

DOT-Armm Regional secretary Ayesha Vanessa Hajar Dilangalen told reporters last Monday in a roundtable discussion at Coffee Grounds, Quezon Boulevard in Davao City that Tawi-Tawi can anchor on tourism to boost its economy and Armm as well.

“For last year, an estimate of about one million tourists visited Tawi-Tawi alone,” she said.

Of the figure, 10 percent are from foreign tourists mostly from Malaysia due to the annual visit of Muslims to Sheik Karim al Makdum Mosque, the first and oldest mosque in the Philippines build in 1380.

For domestic tourists, Dilangalen said, most are from Luzon, visitors who are lured with the beautiful and virgin beaches of the province.

Some of the province’s tourist attractions are the Sheik Karim al Makdum Mosque in Simunul, Turtle Island, Panampangan Island, Sitangkai Island, and Bud Bongao Peak, among others.

Tawi-Tawi is an island province located in Armm.

She added around 10 hotel and accommodation establishments are already established in the province but they are still asking the central tourism department’s assistance to accredit these hotels.

Dilangalen said Governor Rashidin Matba is in works of strengthening the provinces’ islands connectivity by building bridges and improving road networks.

Tawi-Tawi is one of the focused-areas for the DOT’s Mindanao Joint Planning and Programming for Tourism Development and Mindanao Development Authority’s Mindanao Development Corridors.

Security

The DOT-Armm secretary underscored that at present, tourists shall first coordinate with the local government unit to secure safety.

Dilangalen said tourists are very safe in the area as “tourism police” are placed in the area.

She added the good image of Armm should be accentuated. Dilangalen also called media to stop generalizing the Muslim region as war-torn zone.

Air Connectivity

Dilangalen bared this year, the airport in Tawi-Tawi will be expanded to accommodate more flights.

At present, only one airline, Cebu Pacific, is serving the province. It flies from Zamboanga to Tawi-Tawi once daily.

“The airport will be expanded starting this year, this is to increase flights here as pushed by the strong demand of tourists,” she said.