THE Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 are working proactively alongside the local governments of Cebu City and Balamban to sustain the growth in businesses and promote tourism culture along the 33-kilometer Transcentral Highway (TCH).

“The TCH is now becoming a sought-after tourism attraction frequented by leisure guests—bikers, riders and families. We’ve never seen this huge traffic both in business and people than now in TCH. So we, in the DOT, DENR and the two local government units (LGUs) of Cebu City and Balamban, thought of keeping an eye on this rising destination to protect and preserve it,” said DOT 7 Director Shahlimar Tamano in an interview.

Tamano said they have been meeting with the LGU officials to discuss matters concerning the possible “challenges” the destination and its stakeholders might encounter moving forward, particularly in the area of proper waste disposal, tourism culture, traffic and safety, among others.

“TCH as a destination is really making good. In fact, cafés and restaurant owners are seeing an income increase of 100 percent to 200 percent since the pandemic started. TCH’s scenic views are making Cebuanos endure the one-hour travel from Cebu City almost every day,” said Tamano, who also frequents the TCH for leisure and to conduct site inspections.

“Even the Mt. Manunggal area is already attracting a lot of campers and trekkers,” he added.

Mt. Manunggal is the third-highest peak in Cebu. It is located in Barangay Magsaysay in Balamban, Cebu and is known as the site of the crash of the presidential plane Mt. Pinatubo which killed President Ramon Magsaysay and 24 others on March 17, 1957.

The group also aims to organize all the business and tourism stakeholders in TCH.

As an initial intervention, Tamano said the DOT 7 will conduct two trainings in November to capacitate tourism workers about the Filipino brand of hospitality service, cleanliness and waste disposal, among others.

“We will be proactive to sustain the momentum of the TCH,” he said. “Imagine if we will not start identifying the possible challenges, then what will happen to this destination, which really has a big potential, five years from now?”

Since the easing of travel restrictions last year, Cebuanos have been going up to the highlands of Cebu to enjoy outdoor dining and for relaxation. The continued increase in foot traffic has resulted in the rise in coffee shops, restaurants and other outdoor facilities.

Besides working with the LGUs, Tamano said the group will also involve the Cebu Province in this long-term endeavor.

In December 2020, Cebu City Tourism Commission chairperson Jocelyn Pesquera said they would put the spotlight on Cebu’s flower farms and mountain resorts to encourage local tourists to re-explore Cebu’s highlands.

Pesquera said 10 barangays have participated in the program dubbed Highland Blooms and Eco Tourism. These are Barangays Tagbao, Sinsin, Tabunan, Sudlon 1, Sudlon 2, Babag, Buhisan, Bonbon, Budlaan and Adlaon.

This tourism program flaunts the city’s natural sites like falls, caves, pocket forests, eco and flower farms, as well as the various establishments in the mountain barangays. (KOC)