Tourism in Region 11 not affected by Mamasapano clash

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/03 February) — Tourist arrivals in Region 11 have not been affected by the bloody encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25, an official said.

In an interview at the Sangguniang Panlungsod Tuesday, Department of Tourism regional director Roberto Alabado said only one flight to the city has been cancelled so far after the incident.

“That in itself is saying something,” Alabado said.

He said the cancelled flight was booked by 10 foreigners who planned to have a meeting here. “Other than that, there were no others who canceled.”

Alabado was a guest during the city council’s privilege hour. He reported on the agency’s Visit Davao Fun Sale, which aims to promote the city to other locations for seven weekends starting April.

He said that while this was a challenge for the agency, the priority is to keep pushing for visits.

He added it was a good thing that local and foreign tourist arrivals have not been greatly affected especially since the agency was aggressively promoting several key events in the city such as the fun sale, Araw ng Dabaw in March and Kadayawan in August.

“Whenever we speak with DOT secretary Ramon Jimenez, he never mentions the negatives that occur in Mindanao,” Alabado said.

He said tourism sites should be developed and promoted in the best possible way to keep people coming, he said.

“Look at Thailand and London,” Alabado said. “There is a war going on in Thailand right now. In the 1980s, London became a major tourist destination even with bombings happening there every week.”

DOT’s other major initiatives include incentives for organizations or companies that hold their meetings in the city through the “Let’s meet in Davao” meetings, incentives, conference and exhibitions (MICE) program.

Meanwhile, the city council approved on Tuesday an ordinance authorizing Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte to sign on behalf of the city a memorandum of agreement with the DOT and the Department of Public Works and Highways.

The MOA allows the local government to identify priority tourism areas in the city.

Alabado said the DOT’s task is to verify the tourism areas, and the DPWH to fund and build the roads leading to the tourism destinations.

City Tourism Officer Lisette Marques said these projects were already identified in 2014 and will be implemented this year.

A copy of the DPWH status report lists Davao City as having around P153 million worth of infrastructure projects for declared tourism destinations, as of June 15, 2014. (MindaNews)