Heard about the Philippine Gems?
- Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - July 27, 2013 - 12:00am

This is a project of Isla Lipana & Co., a well-known accounting and business advisory firm.  Isla Lipana & Co., now a 91-year old company, has a world-wide staff of 180,000, with offices in 160 countries. Their Philippine office is headed by Alexander Cabrera, chairman and senior partner of this company which, incidentally, is also into tax services.

When I read somewhere that they have launched the Philippine Gems Project, I immediately got interested.  Here is a company that has no tie-up, business-wise, with tourism or hospitality-related businesses, yet has taken up the cudgels to give their 10 cents’ worth to the cause of Philippine Tourism.  I arranged for a televised interview with Mr. Cabrera on Business & Leisure, the TV show, so our viewers may know more about this laudable project.  From there, hopefully the project catches on with the rest of our countrymen.

Philippine Gems hopes to draw attention to the less-developed destinations in the Philippines, outside of the oft-visited spots in Cebu, Cam Sur, Bohol, Davao, Boracay, etc. Believe me, there are hundreds of these less-known destinations hereabout, most of them you and I have not even heard of.           

From a list of 200 that they have culled from their office staff, friends and local celebrities who are well-travelled domestically, they have trimmed this down to 150, then down the line to the top 25 destinations, from where they will get the top 10 from online voting. As of this writing, the list of 25 has already been established so, no, it’s no longer possible to make “habol” your new-found favorite destination in the Philippines in the list. If your newly-discovered lagoon, island, river, or rain forest has that “wow factor”, a place that gives you a tingling feeling of a wonderful find, it must be somewhere in the list of finalists of Philippine Gems. Just to whet your curiosity, included in this list are Apo Island, Camiguin, Caramoan Island, Batanes, Biri Island Rock Formation, Grande island, and Tubataha Reef.

Almost all of the votes will come from online voting, though lately they have opened a channel for manual voting as well, which is a good idea. Why disenfranchise the less techie ones who would like to cast their votes as well, or those from far flung municipalities whose local spot in their hometown may be a candidate in the running?

Caloy Libosada of Asian Institute of Tourism of the University of the Philippines, heads the panel of judges for Philippine Gems and is ably supported by representatives from the Dept. of Tourism Trade Promotions Board, blogger James Betia (who wrote the books 100 Days Around the Philippines on P50K Budget), Love Anover of GMA 7, director Jose A. Reyes, Jing Leano, editor-at-large of Turista Magazine and from the business community Junie del Mundo and Cosette Romero.

Anyone with an e-mail address can vote on-line.  Just go to www.philippinegems.com. Let’s all do our share for Philippine tourism and, yes, for those municipalities that will inevitably get blessed with the benefits that tourism can lend to them.

This is nothing fishy

Have you ever wondered what happened to the families of those fishermen who got lost at sea while trying to catch a day’s worth of food on the table, or perhaps a bucket of fish to sell at the local market at sunrise for their family’s subsistence? Most likely, if there is no older boy among the brood he has left behind, the family will simply scavenge for a living, live off on dole outs from sympathizing neighbors for a while, or simply die of starvation.

The reality is, there has never been a protective net for our small fisher folks, no social protection for the families. This is why the recent project of the Bureau of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources (BFAR) named FishR has raised hopes for these marginalized Filipinos in the fishing sector.  These include the small fishermen, workers involved in the fishing business and working in aquaculture farms and even those who operate commercial fishing vessels together with their crew. Under FishR, they have begun conducting a nationwide registration of all these fisher folks in all the 16 regions in the archipelago. Though the period covered is from December 2013 to December 2014, and the official launch in Bicol is yet to take place, registration has started in at least six sites.

Patterned after the Registry System for Basic Sector on Agricultural & Fisheries (RSBA), all fishermen are enjoined to register for identification purposes. The local government units will validate the list from the RSBA and ensure that the registration forms come complete with ID pictures. If the fisherman relocates to another municipality, he is required to register anew.

 Actually, the Fisheries Code of 1998 has already decreed that fishermen must be licensed and registered before they can engage in fishing in Philippine seas. With this renewed effort at registration, these fishermen and other workers can now look forward to benefits from the government. As BFAR director Asis Perez, who is pushing this Fish R Project said, without a system of identifying them, how can the government extend a helping hand to them if they do not have a face? Director Perez recalled that when gasoline prices reached unprecedented heights, government wanted to extend the subsidy to them, but without a registry to guide them and name the rightful beneficiaries, this was not possible.

Director Perez also said that BFAR is talking with Philhealth so that his sector will be included in the coverage. Almost a half or 41 percent of Filipino fishermen live below the poverty line, per National Statistics Data of 2009. Philhealth hopes for a 100 percent coverage of all Filipinos by 2015, and director Perez is pushing hard for this. Kudos.

More importantly, they are petitioning the Department of Budget Management to enable fishermen to have access to insurance, much like farmers who are covered by crop insurance. Should the DBM find the funds to give them access to insurance, not only the fishermen but also their fishing boats will get insurance protection.

According to the BFAR director, the fishing sector has increased its production by 5.5 percent in the second quarter, and no major fish kill has been recorded across the nation. That means we are now ably managing our coastal areas.

Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.

For comments (email) businessleisure-star@stv.com.ph


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