DOT to strengthen farm tourism

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 8 Feb) – The Department of Tourism (DOT) plans to intensify the promotion of tourism-oriented family farms to encourage the participation of young Filipinos in farming, Tourism Assistant Secretary Eden Josephine David said.

David said in an interview that the DOT has already accredited 34 farm tourism sites in the country, three of which are in Davao City that included the Malagos Garden Resort, which operates the 70-hectare cacao farm in Calinan District.

She said that they want to strengthen farm tourism in order to bring development to the countryside and ensure food security by engaging the young Filipinos in different farm activities.

The DOT sits as chair of the Farm Tourism Development Board, with Department of Agriculture as vice chair and Department of Trade and Industry as the main implementing partner. Members are composed of president of an educational institution providing farm tourism programs, to be identified by the DOT and the DA, president of a national farm tourism organization, president of a national inbound tour operators association, and president of a national federation of farmers’ cooperatives.

The board will “formulate plans and programs for the development and promotion of farm tourism in the country and shall set the overall direction for the implementation of the plan.”

It will be the board that will accredit farms as farm tourism sites but added that each must have activities like planting and farm tours for visitors and facilities like restaurant and reception areas in place in order to qualify.

She added the small farm owners must put in place different activities to be accredited.

“It must have basics of tourism in place, there’s activity going on, not just about eating fruits, pick and pay but also other activities. You can engage visitors to do farming activity, they can plant, if there’s livestock available, they can do milking activity and even games done within the farm,” she said.

David added the DOT would provide technical assistance by helping them come up with and enhance services through the trainings and workshops.

She called farm tourism as the “new sunshine industry” and that it must be strengthened to help uplift the farmers of high value crops like those in Davao who are mostly into cacao, durian, and pomelo.

Section 4 of Republic Act 10816, also known as Farm Tourism Development Act of 2016, provides that the board is mandated to create a Farm Tourism Strategic Action Plan that underlines the comprehensive set of programs, projects and activities for the growth of farm tourism in the country.

RA 10816 covers, among others, the following areas of concern: investment promotion and financing; market research, trends, innovations, and information; accreditation of farm tourism camps; market promotion and development; agriculture and fishery research, development and extension; institutional and human resource development; and infrastructure support. It shall likewise define the roles and responsibilities of national government agencies, local government units (LGUs), farm tourism operators, tour operators, educational institutions, and other industry stakeholders in the implementation of the plan.

David said DOT eyes eight million foreign visitors in the country after it hit 6.7 million in 2017. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)