DAPITAN CITY, Philippines – Despite the negative publicity brought by terrorism and problems in peace and order, the Department of Tourism (DOT) vowed to make Mindanao a global tourist spot in 2017.
“We will bring Mindanao to global tourism this year,” Tourism Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre said.
Alegre explained that government agencies will complement the private sector, which is mainly the driving force of tourism.
“The present administration is committed to ending the peace and order problem. We will build necessary infrastructure to support tourism and – this is important – for every negative publicity, we will have at least 12 positive promotions,” Alegre told Rappler.
He pointed out that safe places outnumber those affected by peace and order problems in Mindanao.
He said this is why a first batch of Miss Universe candidates was brought to Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte two weeks ago. It was for them to see that Mindanao is not as dangerous as portrayed in some publications.
“Besides, we recognize – and this is even globally recognized – that lawless activities are a modern-day hazard. It is no different from being accidentally hit by a car on the street. There is risk factor in traveling, but the love to travel, the desire to see sites, always exceeds the risk factor,” Alegre said.
He also said the Philippines can become an alternative tourist destination because a lot of global tourists have already seen the rest of Asia.
Alegre pointed to Dapitan in Zamboanga del Norte as a potential draw for historical or heritage tourism. It is the city where national hero Jose Rizal spent his final days in exile before his trial and execution in Manila.
“It’s a little more than an hour’s flight from Manila to nearby Dipolog Airport, and in 30 minutes, you can be on a river cruise in Dapitan, dive spots in 5 minutes. I am told that there is a sunk 18th-century galleon here. You can be golfing, and at the end of the day, you can have great food and rest at 5-star Dakak beach resort. These are what attract global tourists,” Alegre said.
He said there will be an influx of Chinese tourists next year, with an initial 1,200 of them already booked to visit Dapitan in early 2017. (READ: China lifts travel advisory vs PH)
With the help of Zamboanga del Norte 1st District Representative Seth Frederick Jalosjos, Alegre said the tourism department will work with the Department of Justice and the Bureau Immigration to fast-track the conversion of Dipolog Airport into an international airport.
“We intend to bring Chinese tourists directly to Dapitan,” Alegre said. – Rappler.com