Cebuanos urge focus on ‘natural’ tourist destinations

John Sitchon
Cebuanos urge focus on ‘natural’ tourist destinations

TOURISM. The Campinsa Hills is among the well-traveled natural tourist sites in the island of Cebu, which can be found in Talisay City.

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Cebu is eager for the recovery of 260 establishments damaged by Typhoon Odette in 2021 and the return of tourist numbers to pre-pandemic levels

CEBU, Philippines – As face mask use has become optional, tourist-centered infrastructure projects are breaking ground in the premier island of the Visayas, the Philippine central group of islands.

Locals cheer the tourism uptick, but want local governments to focus on natural, affordable and family-oriented destinations.

For boat captain and biking enthusiast Randy Canencia, camping sites would be a great start for the province.

“I am a very family-oriented man so most probably we’re waiting for a kind of tourism that is also very family-oriented like camping sites and a nature-type of tourism,” Canencia told Rappler on the sidelines of a tourist rest area groundbreaking ceremony.

The island of Cebu is known as a top tourist draw in the Philippines. From luxury resorts to protected mangrove areas, there are over a hundred tourist destinations to visit on the island.

However, in December 2021, Typhoon Odette ravaged several parts of the metro and rural areas, leaving the island in ruins and pegging damage to tourism sites at P2.5 billion.

The Cebu Provincial Tourism Office tallied 260 tourism firms destroyed by the super typhoon. This was on top of the already-hit tourism industry all over Central Visayas due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

In February 2022, the Department of Tourism (DOT) announced it was time to reopen tourism in the region, citing the need to support the tourist-reliant livelihoods of locals.

The Cebu provincial government linked establishments to four government banks that offered minimal interest for loans that would be used in rebuilding tourism sites.

Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia leads the signing and groundbreaking ceremonies of the Tourist Service Centers and Rest Areas in Carmen, Cebu, on October 8, 2022. Photo by Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler

Work on nature

Besides working on infrastructure, Erwen Castro, an 18-year-old STEM student at Carmen National High School, believes that the government should put more effort into improving the province’s natural resources.

“I mean, it doesn’t have to be just infrastructure. Half of it can be showing the beauty of the environment and the other half would be developed by people,” Castro said in a mix of English and Cebuano.

His idea for this would be the development of waterfalls in the province, adding minor infrastructures while still preserving the natural resource. 

At present, there are over 1,000 waterfalls in Cebu.

On the other hand, 55-year-old Antonio Espina, village chief of Barangay Poblacion in the municipality of Carmen, believes developing springs and “natural swimming locations” would boost tourist visits to lesser-known areas in the province.

“It would be great if there are [developments] so [tourists] would enjoy our swimming spots because we would be happy too if they visited our town in Carmen,” Espina said.

Continued coordination

“We continue to coordinate with our local stakeholders to ensure that they comply with rules and regulations in terms of the preservation of our natural landmarks,” Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco told Rappler. 

On October 8, Frasco and her mother, Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia, led the groundbreaking ceremony for a modernized tourist rest area in the Municipality of Carmen, Cebu.

“The establishment of the Tourist Rest Areas (TRA) fulfills the objectives that we have set out in the Department of Tourism including improving the overall tourist experience,” Frasco said during the groundbreaking.

The TRA is a joint project by the DOT, the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), and the local government unit (LGU) where the infrastructure will be established.

As of this writing, the DOT has signed a memorandum of agreement for the establishment of TRAs with the LGUs of Carmen, Medellin, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, and Samal Island in Davao del Norte. –

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