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By Lily O Ramos

MANILA – The Department of Tourism (DOT) is extending its full support to the Caticlan airport expansion project which, upon completion, is expected to accommodate 1.2 million passengers annually from its present capacity of 700,000.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE alleged fake priest soliciting for money in exchange for prayers for the dead visited two government offices based in Iloilo City.

Edwin Trompeta, Department of Tourism regional director, said a certain Charles Lobaton went to their office on Bonifacio Drive, Iloilo City last week and introduced himself as a member of the Franciscan Missionaries in Quezon City.

Trompeta said Lobaton first called his office two months ago to invite him to view antique furniture he is selling.

“But I had no time to visit his place as I was very busy. He called our office three times to invite me. I even learned that he also went to the offices of the Department of Education, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG),” Trompeta said.

The DILG is headed by Trompeta’s wife, Evelyn.

Last Friday, Lobaton appeared at the DOT office with an image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

Since Trompeta was out of town, DOT employees entertained Lobaton who distributed envelopes for prayer intentions and donations.

“He even sold religious frames to the employees. He even told our employees that the DOT is very lucky because our office was the last place to be visited by the image which is bound to return to Barcelona, Spain,” he added.

On Sunday, Lobaton called the Trompetas’ residence and asked for an audience with the DOT chief even for just 15 minutes.

Lobaton finally met Trompeta and they discussed about the relief efforts and donation drive of the Franciscan Missionaries.

“Lobaton told me that their school in Pangasinan was damaged during the flood and they are asking for donations,” Trompeta said.

Trompeta said he asked for Lobaton’s address and contact number “but he kept changing the details he gave me.”

When Trompeta verified Lobaton’s identity and affiliation with the Franciscan Missionaries, he learned that the religious order was composed mostly of nuns.

“They only have a handful of priests whom they know by heart and they cannot recall any member by the name of Charles Lobaton. That’s when I became suspicious of this person,” Trompeta said.

The Franciscan Missionaries also told Trompeta that their members bear ID cards and authorization letters to conduct religious activities.

Trompeta said he referred the matter to the Archdiocese of Jaro which later released an advisory on the alleged fake priest.

‘Maybe we should be wary because we have the tendency to be respectful of persons who claim to be priests. A little caution won’t harm,” Trompeta said.

PBO bane to Iloilo City’s tourism?

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Department of Tourism (DoT) and a tourist bus operator slammed traffic managers in Iloilo City for being “unfriendly” to the tourism sector.

DOT regional director Edwin Trompeta riled at the deliberate refusal of the Traffic Technical Working Group (TTWG) and Traffic Management and Engineering Unit (TMEU) to allow a tourist bus to enter the city and fetch a group of tourism officers.

Trompeta said the Iloilo Tourism Officers Association (ITOA) tried to secure a permit from the TTWG to allow a bus of Philippine Visitors, Investors Services and Assistance, Inc. (Philvisa) to fetch them from a hotel and tour the city and province of Iloilo.

The DoT official said the tour was part of ITOA’s seminar in Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center last week.

But Trompeta claimed the TTWG did not act on the application nor did it inform ITOA on the status of its request for special permit.

Buses and other public utility vehicles are barred from entering the city because of the perimeter boundary ordinance (PBO).

“What happened was that 80 tourism officers boarded passenger jeepneys to the terminal in Pavia where the Philvisa bus was waiting. What happened is not very good for the tourism sector of Iloilo City,” Trompeta said.

Max Sorbito, Philvisa manager, said they learned that TTWG did not act on the special permit because the TMEU lacks personnel that will direct traffic when the bus goes around the city.

Sorbito said the actuation of the TTWG will drive away tourists and investors from Iloilo City.

Trompeta said the millions of pesos spent by the Iloilo City government to promote the city as tourism destination will go to waste if visitors find it hard to go around the metropolis.

The Iloilo City Council, through the committee on transportation and communication, turned Philvisa’s bid to ply the Iloilo airport-Iloilo City route because it runs counter to the PBO.

Taxi groups in Iloilo City opposed Philvisa’s operations in Iloilo City saying it will reduce their passengers.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE third and fourth quarters of 2009 are critical periods for the tourism sector in Western Visayas amid the Influenza A(H1N1) pandemic.

Edwin Trompeta, regional director of the Department of Tourism in Western Visayas, said the gains of the tourism sector in the first two quarters might be affected because of the pandemic.

“We noted growth in tourist arrivals in the region, particularly Boracay Island, in the first and second quarters of this year. We see the third and fourth quarters as very critical because of the flu,” Trompeta said.

Trompeta said traditional tourism markets such as the US and Europe are also being cautious because of the A(H1N1) flu.

Boracay was the second top tourist destination in the country with 158,030 arrivals from January to March 2009.

The island resort also drew the second highest number of foreign tourists of 63,903.

Cebu was the top tourist destination in the country according to a DoT report for the first four months of the year.

Overall, the volume of domestic tourists visiting key destinations grew faster at 13% while foreign arrivals recorded a 4% increase in the first quarter.

Trompeta said that among the island-resorts, Boracay remains the top tourist drawer with tourist arrivals growing by an average of 6% annually for the past decade.

Boracay boosted its room capacity with the opening of the Shangri-la’s Boracay Resort and Spa, a high-end 217-room resort on the island.

“We are hoping that the pandemic will slow down and have no effect on the tourism sector which continues to make positive ratings despite the global economic recession,” Trompeta said.

The DoH has been closely watching the situation in Boracay in coordination with the local government unit of Aklan and Malay town.

The DoH and DoT recently conducted an orientation on A(H1N1) flu to help businesses and other stakeholders respond to the pandemic.

Latest data from the Department of Health said 14 cases under observation for A(H1N1) flu were recorded in Western Visayas.

The total confirmed cases jumped to 6 patients after an 20-year-old American missionary in Bacolod City tested positive for the A(H1N1) virus.

The missionary arrived June 9 and showed flu-like symptoms June 14.

The patient has been discharged from the hospital after showing signs of improvement.

Since May 18, DoH-6 has recorded 43 cases under observation (CUOs). A total of 14 patients found negative for the flu while 6 tested positive for the virus.

The test results of the remaining 23 patients are still pending with the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

Iloilo recorded the highest number of CUOs with 24, Negros Occidental (15), Aklan (2) and Capiz (2).

Of the total CUOs recorded, 35 are Filipinos and 8 foreigners including 21 males and 22 females. The age of the CUOs ranges from 2 to 89 years old, the DoH said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Department of Health (DoH) and Boracay Foundation, Inc. (BFI) will mount a briefing on influenza A (H1N1) May 18 to prepare Boracay Island against the spread of the disease.

 

Glen Alonsabe, regional epidemiologist of DoH in Western Visayas, said the BFI and Department of Tourism (DoT) requested their office to hold the briefing because of the influx of foreign tourists in the island resort.

 

“We consider Boracay Island and the municipality of Malay as a critical point in our surveillance on the entry of A H1N1 flu in Western Visayas because of the airport and jetty port in Caticlan. The business community must be educated on the virus and how to react should there be suspected cases of infection,” Alonsabe said.

 

The Kalibo airport also caters to bi-weekly flights of Mandarin Airlines from Tapei to Kalibo, the capital town of Aklan province.

 

Dr. Adrian Salaver, Malay municipal health officer, said the briefing is part of their A (H1N1) flu preparation plan aside from monitoring foreigners bound for Boracay.

 

The Kalibo municipal government has requested for the installation of a thermal scanner at the airport.

 

But Lino Gregorio, chief of the Bureau of Quarantine regional office, said this is not feasible because the airport’s design will affect the sensors of the scanner.

 

“For the meantime, the thermal scanner is not feasible because of the humid environment in the Kalibo Airport. It should be placed in an air-conditioned area to monitor the temperatures of incoming passengers from regional flights,” Gregorio said.

 

The Kalibo airport is constructing a new passenger terminal building which is expected to operate October 2009.

 

Boracay Island is the country’s second top tourist destination for the first four months of 2009.

 

DoT data show that 158,030 tourists, including 63,903 foreign visitors, went to Boracay in the first quarter of this year.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ANTIQUE Governor Salvacion Z. Perez finds it unhealthy for a husband and wife to head two important regional offices in Western Visayas.

 

This is the reason why Perez lobbied with President Gloria Arroyo to transfer either Department of Tourism (DoT-6) regional director Edwin Trompeta or his wife, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG-6) director Evelyn Trompeta, from Region 6 to somewhere else.

 

Perez asked for the couple’s transfer when the President visited Valderrama, Antique Thursday to give houses and assistance to victims of typhoon Frank last year.

 

In an interview with Aksyon Radyo, Perez said she does not like the couple serving as regional directors in the same region.

 

“Why unhealthy? Because the couple tends to defend each other when we scold them for not attending important affairs,” she said.

 

Perez said she was irked by the failure of Edwin Trompeta to join the One Visayas exposition in Cebu recently.

 

The lady-governor said she was disappointed when Western Visayas was not represented in the expo because of the DoT’s failure to join in the affair which was attended by provinces in Regions 7 and 8.

 

The One Visayas project was held side by side with the Visayas Arts Festival in Cebu.

 

“We invited him to join the One Visayas affair because it was an activity of the Regional Development Council (RDC) where DoT is a member. I was disappointed with their non-presence,” Perez said.

 

Perez also cited the refusal of DILG director Evelyn Trompeta to hold the suspension order against Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas Sr. in January 2007 as another reason why they want them out of the region.

 

The lady-governor said other governors in Region 6 support the removal of the Trompetas.

 

When asked who should be kicked out of Western Visayas, Perez said she wants Edwin Trompeta gone “because he is at fault, not his wife.”

 

Edwin Trompeta told The Daily Guardian he did not get any invitation to the One Visayas event organized by the private sector, not the RDC. 

 

“We were not invited by the organizer to join the planning or whatever activity that’s why we were not there,” he said.

 

The DoT regional chief said he was in Cebu during the One Visayas affair “but we attended another activity were the department was invited.”

 

Edwin said Perez could have summoned and scolded him for not attending the Cebu affair instead of lobbying for his removal from Western Visayas.

 

“Maybe the good governor does not want a DoT director who sleeps and impregnated the DILG director,” he said in jest.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO Vice Governor Rolex Suplico deleted the financial assistance for a festival in New Lucena, Iloilo in the 2009 proposed budget because he thought the affair was meant to honor cattle rustlers.

 

But Suplico’s explanation on why he removed the P50,000 financial aid to the Cry of Jelicuon festival of New Lucena did not sit well with board member June Mondejar who is a former mayor of the said town.

 

Mondejar questioned the move of Suplico, chairman of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan committee on appropriations, during the deliberation on the latter’s committee report early this week. The board member said financial assistance to other town festivals were retained in the 2009 budget except for the Cry of Jelicuon.

 

Suplico said he deleted the financial aid because he thought that the festival is a tribute to cattle thieves who gained notoriety in the towns of Cabatuan, New Lucena and Maasin.

 

Jelicuon is also the name of a village in Cabatuan which is known as the lair of cattle rustlers.

 

But Mondejar said the festival is an important event in Ilonggo history “because it honors General Martin Delgado and Ilonggo revolutionaries who declared freedom from Spanish rule at Brgy. Jelicuon, New Lucena.”

 

Suplico said he could have retained the financial aid for the festival had capitol department heads appeared before the budget hearings to defend and explain the proposed appropriations for 2009.  

 

Provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada also took potshots at Suplico for the latter’s perceived “ignorance of history.”

 

Mejorada said the “cavalier manner” by which Suplico described the Cry of Jelicuon “desecrates the memory of local hero General Martin Delgado and his men.”

 

“Suplico’s remarks in describing the historical event as ‘giving honor to cattle rustlers’ betrays his ignorance about Iloilo’s rich and glorious history and insults the people of New Lucena who consider it as their contribution to the fight for Philippine independence 110 years ago,” Mejorada added.

 

The provincial administrator said Suplico should apologize to the people of New Lucena for his “reckless and irresponsible” statements and for “demeaning the significance of the event.”

 

“This betrays Suplico’s ignorance about local history, as the ‘Cry of Jelicuon’ was really the first event to signal the uprising of Ilonggo patriots joining the wave of revolutionaries declaring the country’s independence from Spain. What happened was that General Delgado, who was a captain in the Spanish Guardia Civil, used a military operation against cattle rustlers in that barangay as the cover story so he could bring his troops together and declare their fight for independence. Apparently, Suplico doesn’t know this. Because of his ignorance, Suplico insulted the people of New Lucena,” he said.

 

But all is not lost for the Cry of Jelicuon festival after Department of Tourism regional director Edwin Trompeta pledged to extend financial help to the town of New Lucena. 

 

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