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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

FROM hushed conversations in nightspots to loud deliberations in the provincial board of Aklan, prostitution in Boracay Island has caught the attention of government agencies and non-government organizations (NGOs).

The thriving sex trade in the island-resort was revealed during a briefing on the effects of tourism on children in Boracay last week.

The Aklan Provincial Technical Working Group and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s committees on laws, health, and women sponsored the briefing.

The End Child Labor Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT), an NGO that combats child prostitution, presented a report on the extent of child prostitution.

The ECPAT report – Situational Analysis of the Effects of Tourism on Children in Boracay – claimed that six bars and resorts in Boracay Island are tolerating child prostitution.

ECPAT also said that some of these alleged child prostitutes are residents of the island who are driven to sell their bodies due to poverty.

The study found that the girls frequent nightspots in the island bars and show themselves off to potential clients through sexy or dirty dancing or simply hanging out in the bar.

“While it is a fact that tourism in Boracay has obviously brought in money for the government, it too has its social costs. Boracay attracts not just responsible tourists who compose the majority, but also visitors whose purpose to travel is to exploit and engage in sexual activities involving children. This situation in turn makes other children in Boracay highly at risk due to exposure to the trade,” the ECPAT report said.

MINORS                         

Another study on commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in Boracay cited by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) identified 11 young women and three boys most of whom were actively involved in the sex trade.

Of the 11, five were minors, aged between 14 and 17, at the time of the interview. All 14 of them claimed they were sold by a pimp to a foreign client. All children said their first sexual abuses happened when they were 11-15 years old.

Some 337,666 tourists arrived in Boracay January to May 2009, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said.

Koreans constitute the largest number of these tourists at 30,369. They are also among the most frequent sex tourist clients based on ECPAT’s interview with child prostitutes.

Other foreign sex tourists come from Japan, France, Germany, England, China and the United States. The study, however, showed that there were also Filipino sex clients and even foreign gay tourists who seek young boys as sexual partners.

The “lady boys” was coined here to refer to prostituted males and boys dressing and acting like girls. The study showed they were more prone to violence and discrimination.

The CSEC victims interviewed claimed that payment for their sexual services vary depending on the time the client wants to spend with them.

On the average, they get P1,500 to as much as P5,000 from 30 minutes to a whole night of service. These alleged child prostitutes identified in the study claimed they have at least one to two customers per night. Peak season in Boracay also spells more customers for the minors.

RESPONSES

The ECPAT report prompted government agencies such as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), DSWD, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to put a rescue mechanism in place in the Island resort.

DOLE 6 Regional Director Aida M. Estabillo directed their provincial office in Aklan to monitor and conduct inspection of establishments that are allegedly tolerating child prostitution.

Estabillo said she directed the Provincial Sagip Batang-Manggagawa Quick Action Team to joint efforts with law enforcement agencies and other entities to rescue child prostitutes in the island.

“This situation needs to be addressed immediately before it balloons and gets out of hand,” she added.

DOLE 6 said it regularly inspects establishments in Boracay but found no information on the existence of child labor. Night operating establishments are yet to be inspected, the agency said.

The PNP also asked help from other stakeholders to help in the campaign against child prostitution.

C/Insp Eugene Rebadomia, Boracay police chief, said they have no facility where children rescued from the sex trade can temporarily stay.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo 

THE Iloilo Dinagyang festival was inducted in the Hall of Fame during the 10th Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippine (ATOP) convention in General Santos City October 1-3.

Iloilo’s premiere festival won the Hall of Fame plum after winning the best tourism event crown from 2006 to 2008.

Dinagyang is celebrated every third week of January and highlights the Ilonggos’ veneration to the Sto. Niño and their culture.

The festivity culminates in the Ati-ati dance competition which pits ati tribes from various schools and barangays. A streetdancing and merrymaking also brings the festival to fever pitch.

Aside from Dinagyang, ATOP also hailed the Paraw Regatta Race as the best sports tourism event in the country.

Paraw Regatta, a race of wind-driven outrigger boats, is held every February to celebrate Ilonggos maritime tradition and skills. It is considered the oldest and one of the grandest regattas in Asia.

The Pamahaw (Search for Ilonggo breakfast) won the nod of judges when it won 3rd place in the best culinary tourism event category.

The awarding was held in General Santos City last Saturday.

Iloilo City Tourism Officer Benito Jimena said the triple victories of Iloilo City in the ATOP convention is the fruit of their efforts to make the city “more than Dinagyang.”

“We have established our status as a place of colorful and meaningful festival, good food and rich culture and tradition,” Jimena 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

AN airline suspended its flights to Caticlan in Malay, Aklan after aviation authorities ordered new operating procedures in the Godofredo Ramos Airport in the said town.

In a statement, Cebu Pacific airline said it will suspend its Manila-Caticlan flights starting July 9 until further notice after the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) imposed the “one-way landing, one-way take-off” policy.

“We have therefore decided to divert all Caticlan flights to Kalibo instead and from there bus all our Boracay-bound passengers at no extra cost,” said CEB President and CEO Lance Gokongwei.

The new CAAP policy started June 26, a day after a Zest Air plane carrying 55 passengers and crew overshot the Caticlan airport.

The Caticlan airport, which is the gateway to Boracay Island, has Runways 06-24. Before the CAAP order, pilots could use either runways for take off or landing.

The CAAP discouraged using runway 24 for landing because of a 39-meter hill near the runway.

The CAAP ordered that runway 06 will be used for take off only while runway 24, which is 950 meters long, will be used for landing only.

In its investigation, CAAP found the Zest Air plane attempted to land on runway 24 but touched down past the landing area marked by white grid lines while trying to avoid the hill.

The plane’s momentum carried it beyond the runway’s end and settled on a grassy area of the field.

The one-way landing, one-way take-off policy will take effect while the Caticlan airport is being rehabilitated. This policy on the airport has been published in the Aeronautical Information Publication since last year.

CEB has been operating direct flights to Caticlan since February 29, 2008 and has since then carried over 340,000 passengers.

CEB mounted as many as 15 round-trip flights daily to Caticlan until June 25.  More than 60,000 booked passengers will be affected by the cancellation.

Gokongwei said “We continue to work closely with our industry partner, the CAAP, to find a speedy resolution, to these airport issues, to allow Cebu Pacific to re-instate flights to Caticlan.

“Boracay continues to be one of the country’s most important tourism destinations.   CEB’s low fare service has been integral to the growth and development of the island’s tourism industry and has increased its accessibility to both local and foreign tourists.” 

Affected passengers may call the call center (02) 702-0888 / (032) 230-8888 or visit the website http://www.cebupacificair.com for more details and updates on their flights.

Also, the CAAP, upon recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao), shortened the length of the two runways.

Runway 06 was reduced from 950 meters to 825 while runway 24 was reduced to 875 meters.

The restriction was adopted following an inspection by foreign consultants hired by the CAAP to assess the airport.

The consultants said the runways’ design posed a real hazard to aircraft operations.

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

 

ILOILO is known for the Dinagyang festival, the delicious batchoy and crunchy biscocho.

 

And it would be better if tourists start the day with a truly Ilonggo breakfast to enjoy the sights, smell and taste of the place.

 

The Iloilo City Tourism and Development Office (CTDO) recently launched the search for the authentic Ilonggo breakfast or “pamahaw” which will become a regular fare in restaurants, hotels and other food outlets. 

 

The idea struck Benito Jimena, CTDO chief, when he was browsing through a hotel menu.

 

“I saw the usual offerings – American breakfast, continental breakfast and the standard Filipino almusal. So I though of coming up with an Ilonggo breakfast that will help create a truly Ilonggo culture and lifestyle. We must show to our visitors that they are indeed in Iloilo,” Jimena said.

 

Jimena said he met with representatives from the academe and hotel and restaurant operators to discuss the possibility of a competition on the typical Ilonggo breakfast.

 

Using a thesis by Dr. Lilia Teves of the University of San Agustin on Ilonggo food ingredients, the group came up with the criteria of the contest, particular the culinary pattern and menu components.  

 

“Initially, the academe suggested the basic culinary pattern consisting of fruits, hot beverage main dish and dessert. Members of Iloilo Hotels Restaurants Resorts Association (IHRRA) also have their innovations and twists. After a series of meetings, we were able to harmonize the parameters,” Jimena said.

 

Jimena added: “To make it distinctly Ilonggo, it must be an original concoction or mix of food making use of locally grown raw materials and locally processed foodstuff. It must be affordable and low-priced and easy to cook – a short-order menu.  It must be healthy and nutritious.”

 

The contest has two categories – student and professional. Five finalists from each category will be announced July 11, 2009 while the public cooking competition is on July 25, 2009, 2pm, at Robinsons Place mall.

 

IHRRA president Angela Abenir said hotels and restaurants must promote and offer Ilonggo breakfast aside from the usual batchoy.

 

IHRRA spokesperson Robert Ferrer said their group will promote the winning pamahaw in their establishments’ menus.

 

Ferrer, general manager of Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center, said the Ilonggo breakfast will be offered side by side with the American and Filipino bill of fare. 

 

Jimena said operators of “home stay”, or private homes offering accommodations to transients in areas with no hotels, can also offer pamahaw to their visitors.

 

“We will also include Guimaras Island in the promotion of Ilonggo breakfast to help their home stay accommodations take off. Ordinary households can also adopt the Ilonggo breakfast recipe,” he added.

 

Jimena said hotels and restaurants should observe the standard pamahaw menu “although it will eventually evolve depending on the demands and requirements of the market.”

 

“Culture and tourism is not just about festivals and destinations. The gastronomic feature must also be given attention so that visitors will keep coming back for more,” Jimena 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.

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