THE Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza) and the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) are set to roll out the newly completed tourism development plans for the islands of Bantayan and Camotes, two of Cebu’s premier tourist destinations.

OPAV Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino said these two-year-in-the-making tourism master plans will be among the legacies of the Duterte administration, which is about to end its term in June this year.

“OPAV initiated this project and we are grateful to Tieza for heeding our call and coming into the picture to fund the creation of these Tourism Development Plans,” Dino said.

“Tourism is crucial for Cebu. It’s one of the primary economic drivers here. So, having these well-researched and well-documented plans will greatly help us further develop the tourism potential of Bantayan and Camotes Islands,” he added.

Dino has pushed for the creation of a master plan for Cebu’s premier tourist hubs, so they will not experience the same fate that Boracay Island went through when it had to be closed for rehabilitation.

Once implemented, this will become one of the legacies of Dino in the development of Cebu’s promising tourism industry.

"President (Rodrigo) Duterte has always promoted tourism in the country and has taken historic rehabilitation to preserve such, we owe it to him and we are always grateful in the Visayas for these initiatives," said Dino.

Development plans for Bantayan, Camotes

The comprehensive plans zoom in into various conceptual site development plans for Bantayan and Camotes, especially for each proposed tourism development zone on these islands.

The master plans also strictly mandate the proposed 25m + 5m no-build zone for Bantayan and Camotes similar to the recently enforced easement for Boracay Island. The 25m easements from the mean high water mark will serve as a salvage zone, while the 5m will be the main pathway for the whole stretch of the beach area.

Bantayan’s master plan has proposed, among other several plans, that cliffside lots should be limited to one hectare to minimize the density of developments. A 30-meter easement from the edge of the cliff will be a public open space. This open space consists of connecting walkways, movable retail kiosks, view decks, landscape areas, activity areas, and an opportunity for cliff diving sites. Lastly, an architectural roof type for the developments is suggested to be a pitched, thatched roof to enhance a more island-living feel.

Such is being proposed to be implemented at Sta. Fe’s The Ruins, a famous tourist attraction in the municipality.

It also proposes an esplanade/linear park that connects several landmarks with a pedestrian-friendly pathway lined with palms and trees. Benches are provided at the entire stretch to give pedestrians an area to rest and enjoy the view of the sea. Such a plan is being pitched to be applied at the existing passenger port Poblacion in Bantayan town.

The same plans are also being proposed for Camotes. Under the master plan, the cliffside development is being pushed to be implemented in Western Poblacion, municipality of Poro.

In the same way, the master plan also proposes the esplanade and passenger port development be adapted by Southern Poblacion in Tudela town.

Under the plan, areas for retail kiosks will be made available which can be another source of income for the park. Proposed open spaces provide areas for outdoor activities or public gatherings. The port is designed to accommodate both large vessels like fast crafts and small pump boats. A passenger port terminal is also pro- posed to provide a space for a ticketing booth, a few F&B’s and restrooms for passengers. A lower boardwalk, which is accessible by stairs and ramps, is provided for the pump boat passengers.

Tourist arrivals

Bantayan and Camotes are crucial tourist hubs in Cebu because they attract an increasing number of tourists before the pandemic.

Based on the data from the Department of Tourism (DOT), the towns of Bantayan, Madridejos, and Santa Fe showed increasing tourism arrivals from 2014 to 2018. Tourism arrivals reached more than 200,000 in 2018.

The average and compounded annual growth rate for the four years was estimated to be at 49 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

Moreover, tourism arrivals in Camotes Islands increased in the past four years, reaching almost 75,000 in 2018. This was almost six times more than what was recorded in 2014. This increase was evident across the four towns of San Francisco, Pilar, Poro, and Tudela. San Francisco, the main gateway to Camotes and where most of the tourism amenities and services are located, received the most number of tourism arrivals on the island.

The Tourism Development Plan Project (TDPP) for Bantayan and Camotes is a consultancy services project funded by Tieza.

Tieza has tapped PGAA Creative Design to provide consultancy services for the creation of these preliminary tourism plans.

The TDPP has been implemented in coordination by the consultant with the OPAV, Department of Tourism-Central Visayas, Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Central Visayas, and the Cebu Provincial Tourism Office.

Also involved in the creation process are the local government units (LGUs) of the Bantayan (the municipalities of Bantayan, Madridejos, and Santa Fe) and Camotes (the municipalities of Pilar, Poro, San Francisco, and Tudela).

These agencies are members of the Technical Working Group of the project, which has been two years in the making.

Readied for implementation

Lawyer Lessandro Maraon, OPAV’s head executive assistant, said the LGUs of Bantayan and Camotes will now have a master plan to follow in further developing their respective tourism industries.

He said the Bantayan and Camotes tourism plans are now being readied for implementation by the LGUs after a series of consultations and research sessions were conducted by the consultant.

“These are detailed plans as they touch on several aspects, including tourism development, transport, culture, power, and wastewater management. These areas are essential in the tourism value-chain,” Maraon said.

Based on the National Tourism Development Plan 2016-2022, the Bantayan and Camotes group of islands are part of the Cebu Tourism Development Area (TDA) under the Central Visayas and Negros Island Cluster Destination of the Central Philippines Destination Group.

The DOT describes the natural resources of Central Philippines to have generated a wide range of tourism products from national parks, ecotourism sites, beach resorts, scuba diving, golf courses, trekking, to festivals.

The Central Philippines is known for pristine white sand beaches, diverse marine life, volcanoes, forests, wetlands, and heritage sites.

In terms of prospective products for the region, DOT identified cruise, yachting, and golf course tournaments. (PR)