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North Eastern Alliance for Tourism (NEAT) Launched in Bien Unido
« on: February 15, 2011, 02:19:32 AM »
By Angeline Valencia
Bohol Chronicle

Second district municipalities yesterday launched the North Eastern Alliance for Tourism (NEAT) during a gathering of mayors and vice mayors at the Dive Camp in Puerto San Pedro of Bien Unido with the presence of Tourism Regional Director Rowena Montecillo.

Rep. Erico Aumentado introduced the NEAT project based on a one town-one-tourism product concept with the support of the Department of Tourism, Sangguniang Panlalawigan Members Josephine Socorro Jumamoy, Gerry Garcia and Romulo Cepedoza, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Provincial Director Rustica Mascariñas, Provincial Tourism Council chair-Lawyer Lucas Nunag, and Bohol Federation of Travel and Tour Operators (BOFETTO) president Antonette Madrinan-Bolo.

All the second district mayors and vice mayors, except Trinidad Mayor Roberto Cajes and Getafe Mayor Cary Boy Camacho who could not make it to the activity, unanimously approved the NEAT project upon the motion of Bien Unido Mayor Niño Rey Boniel. Vice Mayor Francisco Gonzales represented the town of Trinidad.

Under the NEAT project, the mayors and vice mayors formulated a district tourism masterplan wherein the towns complement each other's products in a common tourist destination package for the second district.

This is to avoid duplicating tourism packages of towns that would only disintegrate Bohol's northeastern common potentials.

Board Member Jumamoy, for her part, expressed lament that as she had observed being the chair of the Committee on Tourism in the previous Sangguniang Panlalawigan, no measures had prevented the duplication of zipline attraction in Danao and Loboc, and another one recently added, aside from one more town that planned to come up their own which might result to competition among towns.
         

The northeastern potentials have been evident in the adventure tour of Danao which raised P32 million for the local government last year, an amount much higher than the town's share in the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA); and the Bien Unido Dive Camp at Puerto San Pedro which already raised around P300,000 in just few months.

Boniel also said they had also maximized their island barangays for island hopping package where tourists can go fish feeding, snorkelling, water sports-kayaking, banana boating, jetski, and plans to offer scuba diving in the future as they had identified 10 dive sites as the home of the world renowned double-barrier reef.

The mayor said that van-for-hire operators had already expressed interest in complementing the NEAT concept, based on their initial talks recently.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala had also suggested to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources that Bien Unido be made Lakbay-Aral destination on seaweeds, considering that the town is the seaweeds capital of the Visayas having 3,500 hectares of seaweeds area.

Tony Pet Ouano, whose family operates the Starcraft plying Tubigon-Cebu route, proposed the first boost on logistics as he announced that they will open the 40-minute Getafe-Cebu trip by end of March or early April to bring in tourists through the Getafe port at Bohol side and Pier 1 of Cebu side.

Ouano said that his friends in Cebu who run travel agencies had already started asking about other tourist destinations in Bohol, aside from the usual Panglao-Chocolate Hills-Loboc-tarsiers package.

Free of charge, Starcraft has already started showing the promotional video on the underground grotto, dive sites and other tourist destinations of Bien Unido and the adventure tourism of Danao.

Ouano said they are also willing to show the promotional video on their tourist destinations of other towns for free.

Ouano also suggested one-week mall tours at Park Mall and Ayala where mayors can promote NEAT

In the second part of the activity, Aumentado presided the consultation on projects to be implemented in 2012.

He also reiterated the assurance that second district will only pursue environment-friendly tourism and agricultural development and that Bohol must be spared from environment-threatening projects such as coal-fired power plant.

Bohol can just access to additional power supply from Cebu's coal-fired power plant, and even advanced telecommunications technology to reach here through fiber optics passing through the proposed Bohol-Cebu Friendship Bridge.

Under the NEAT concept, some towns which have no much tourist spots can supply food or other products neighboring towns with high-potential tourist destinations.

Some can also attract tourists by offering services and souvenir products.

Montecillo assured the local government units of second district of DOT's 101-percent support and intends to bring in technical staff to assist in assessing the potentials of the north eastern destination to develop attractive products.

Since only very few of the 14 towns have hotels or pension houses at where tourists can stay, Montecillo proposed the homestay program wherein DOT, the provincial government and the concerned municipal government will finance the spruce-up of host residences through counterparting.

DOT-7 will also tap their technical staff to train the households in hosting the tourists.

She said "everybody gets a share of the pie" under the NEAT project and congratulated the 14 towns of second district for getting into the right track.

Moreover, Montecillo finds it an advantage to have Nunag at the Board of Directors of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), formerly known as Philippine Tourism Authority, which assures that Bohol keeps abreast of the development.

Montecillo also cited Aumentado's contribution for "always the first to introduce ideas for development" and also for pushing an even higher allocation for DOT instead of reducing it during the budget hearing which she had attended.

Aumentado also cited the major role of PTC which he first chaired when still governor after creating it, which he later passed on to Bohol Chronicle Radio Corporation president Peter Dejaresco who turned over the chairmanship to Nunag in an election last year.

Nunag, for his part, said the launching of NEAT project came in good timing just as the DOT is now redoing its national tourism plan and that a meeting has been set in Cebu next week as part of the process.

He said lobbying NEAT project can catch up and it would be advantageous, saying it would be easy to get funding for a project when it is included in the tourism plan.

Nunag also reminded the mayors that tourism as a business, its stakeholders must ensure the sustainability of the capital or the product which is nature in the case of Bohol.

Culture tourism, which is about satisfying visitors, can be easy for Boholanos who are already exposed to hosting visitors since childhood considering the fiesta tradition here as the early training, according to Nunag.

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