The biggest WV Tourism Assembly opens in Bacolod
THE SOUTHERN BEAT  - Rolly Espina () - November 13, 2007 - 12:00am

Western Visayas tourism officials and tourist industry leaders started yesterday their one-week meet in Bacolod City to fine-tune their pitches about the tourist spots of the region, in the hope that it could bring into the region more outside visitors.

Or, as pointed out by Tourism Regional Director Edwin Trompeta to make the region a one-stop destination where one can see a variety of unique things to see and savor.

As of this writing, several top tourism officials and resort owners of the 3,000 expected participants have started trekking into the city. There were also travel agencies, transport and tour operators as well as representatives from local government units, the academe and the mass media.

That, to a certain extent, sort of swept under the rug the troubling questions about water-refilling stations and the lack of many securing the necessary health permits from the health department.

The requirement is known to most members of the Iloilo Purified Drinking Water Association, but, as its president Carlos Denosta told local media, many had deliberately skirted the issue. He admitted that his own water refilling station, White Gold, has yet to apply for the initial and operational permit from the health department.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas had threatened to padlock non-accredited refilling stations before the 2008 Dinagyang Festival in January.

Denosta said the officers of his organization want to have a dialogue with the DOH and local government officials.

That may have an impact on the tourism advocacy of the WV Tourism Assembly. It is common knowledge that most outside visitors as well as local residents have taken to bottled water as safeguard against unsafe potable water.

But the DOH recently revealed that only 154 of the 504 water refilling stations in Region 6 have complied with DOH accreditation. And worse, roughly 70 percent reportedly have questionable sanitation.

DOH warned that this puts the public health at risk.

In Bacolod, despite my having penned the story, neither the city’s health officials nor the office of Mayor Evelio Leonardia had taken pains to ensure compliance by the city’s many water refilling stations securing their health permits. It was just “merrily we go along.”

Very unlikely that this issue will catch the attention of the assembly. All will be focused on how best to project the unique features of the varied and many beautiful and idyllic spots of the region.

Aklan for example, has its Boracay Island, reputed worldwide for its fine white and crystal clear water. Boracay is the most popular destination of the country, its yearly income running into billions of pesos.

Another top drawer, although on a limited scale, is Antique with its enchanting adventures of majestic mountains and dancing waterfalls, sparkling beaches and rich fishing grounds.

Guimaras, too, is considered a must for foreign visitors. Mango Country, as it is called, is an adventure island. And it has a love of island resorts.

Capiz, too, is another “must” visit. It is known as the country’s seafood capital. But it is not only the bangus and other fish varieties that can entice visitors. There is also the fame “diwal” or “angel wing” shell fish. Although temporarily diminished. “Diwal” is still the reputed best offering of the province which has earned the reputation as the nesting ground of “witches”. The legends about these beings can regale the most devoted folklore students.

Of course, Iloilo has earned its reputation with the Dinagyang Festival. But most will really miss Iloilo for what it really is – the place where one can see historical and cultural attractions with stately mansions, majestic old churches and the most exotic delicacies.

But Negros Occidental is not far behind. It is no longer just Sugarlandia. Negros Occidental, especially the South, boasts some of the most beautiful and enchanting beaches. Underdeveloped during the insurgency years, these have now been re-discovered and a lot of foreigners have recently been making a beeline to the South.

Neither are the beaches and resort of the North to be discounted. The most luring is Refugio Island, off San Carlos City in the North, and the other exotic destinations of Escalante and Sagay. Sagay has its Bata Museum and its world-famed marine preserve. And Escalante has its Jahobo island.

But the most famous destinations are still Mambukal Resort which is operated by the provincial government. The famed township founded by the late President Manuel L. Quezon, has recently lured thousands of weekenders and foreign tourists.

The principal attraction is still Bacolod’s Masskara Festival.

Entrepreneurial Tourism Beyond Tourist Arrivals is the theme of the seven-day meet. Trompeta said the summit will offer not only colorful display of destination attractions – arts, crafts, cultural and historical events, shopping and investment opportunities. But the more important, it will offer a forum to explore, identify issues, resolve priorities and establish linkages for development of Western Visayas tourism.

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