THE Department of Tourism in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DOT-ARMM) is staging several festivals to lure more tourists to visit the region, including the newly-renovated majestic Bud Bongao in Tawi-Tawi
DOT-ARMM Secretary Ayesha Vanessa Hajar Dilangalen on Thursday said these festivals scheduled in the coming months “will have active participation from domestic and foreign visitors.”
Dilangalen said these festivals would start in Maguindanao as the province would celebrate its Inaul Festival in February, which would include an international airsoft competition where foreign groups were invited; Kariyala Festival in Wao, Lanao del Sur also in February; and, the Bud Bongao Day in Tawi-Tawi in March.
Bud Bongao or Bongao Peak got further sprucing-up with the completion of the construction of P56 million infrastructures to make access to it easier and friendlier.
The infrastructures included an access road, tourist center, concreting of about 750 steps leading to its zenith, installation of railings for support and protection, and resting sheds.
ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman led the inauguration of the facilities on July 3, 2017.
Tourists will have to register at the visitors’ center, where they will get a briefing about the famous eco-tourism park before trekking the Bongao Peak. An entrance fee of P20 is collected for the maintenance budget of the facilities.
Development of the eco-tourism park, aimed at the preservation and conservation of the area, is one of the priority projects of the Hataman administration.
Bongao Peak is one of the 12 key biodiversity sites in the country, protected by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) under its New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project.
Bud Bongao in Tawi-Tawi and Mount Minandar in Maguindanao are two of the newly-introduced tourist destinations in ARMM.
Meanwhile, Dilangalen noted that the opening of Buluan Boulevard in Maguindanao, which will feature an exquisite display of man-made lights in addition to a river cruise, as well as activities under the One Mindanao tourism campaign, are also expected to lure visitors from other regions.
Based on the latest available data, Lanao del Sur was the top tourist destination in 2016 with close to 70,000 visitor arrivals. This number produced roughly P1.2 billion in tourism receipts.
The 2017 data for Lanao del Sur, however, is expected to slide down due to the Marawi City crisis that started in May.
For at least five months, the province’s visitors were limited to government troops, members of the media, and representatives from civil society groups.
Visitors to the province spent their cash in nearby Lanao del Norte, not in Lanao del Sur where economic activities were almost stagnant.
“Marawi siege’ effect in terms of tourist arrivals is evident,” Dilangalen said.
But she said the rise in tourist arrivals in the four other provinces in ARMM especially in Maguindanao could compensate Lanao del Sur’s decline in tourism receipts.
She said that the town of Maluso in Basilan was also quickly catching up in terms of tourist arrivals.
The region’s fabrics were showcased last year even as the concept of Sarimanok was used at the Miss Universe concept in the first quarter of 2017.
During last year’s State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte, different indigenous textiles were used by the attendees as part of their attire.
“We have high hopes since the tourism component is added to the core areas of Department of the Interior and Local Government’s Seal of Good Local Governance, and many local government units are now giving priority to tourism,” Dilangalen said.
Dilangalen was positive of the year 2018 since her office was able to strengthen its linkages with the national government and with other partners.
An event showcasing tourist attractions in the region is set to be held in April in the walled city of Intramuros in Manila where ARMM products will be exhibited also.
At the same time, scheduled this year is the Tourism Crisis Symposium, which will help ARMM communities learn about proper response in times of need and to capacitate them as well.
Among DOT-ARMM’s plans is to reinforce efforts in community-based tourism.
“We have to strengthen the preparation of our communities in order to have sustainable tourism. Through this, we get to work with the communities in giving our tourists an exquisite experience,” she said. p: wjg