Beaches of Panglao
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - November 26, 2018 - 12:00am

PANGLAO – All the years of having travelled as a Malacañang reporter of The STAR in the coverage of presidential trips in the past took me across the Philippines, but this is my first time ever to visit the province of Bohol. Located in Central Visayas, Bohol is more popularly known for the natural wonders called as Chocolate Hills, an apt description of the chocolate-like hills that dotted the towns of Carmen, Batuan and Sagbayan.

Bohol’s Chocolate Hills have been declared the country’s third National Geological Monument and proposed for inclusion in the World Heritage List of the UNESCO. Viewed from the top, the Chocolate Hills form a rolling terrain of mounds which are mostly conical or dome-shaped. During the dry season, folks here tell me, the grass-covered hills dry up and turn chocolate brown. Thus, they look like endless rows of the popular Hershey chocolate brand “Kisses.”

 There is no exact number but the official estimate of the hills range from 1,268 to about 1,776 individual mounds. I was told here these cone-shaped or dome-shaped hills in various sizes, heights, and shapes are actually grass-covered limestone. Scattered by the hundreds, each hill seems to be unique.

Aside from these unique hills, another “main attraction” of Bohol is a very cute mammal called tarsier. This animal is known as the smallest primate in the world. They are nocturnal primates that have huge, round eyes for their tiny bodies. They leap from tree to tree to find insects for their nighttime feeding.

But the major tourist destination in the province is the island resort of Panglao. Bohol-Philippines Travel Guide describes Panglao as a famous tourist destination for its white sand beaches and world-class diving sites. Panglao is just one of the several islands surrounding the province of Bohol. The island resort of Panglao is located southwest of Bohol’s capital city of Tagbilaran. Panglao is very accessible to other natural wonders of the countless springs, rivers, falls and caves that primarily interest and attract local and foreign tourists to go to Bohol.

Thus, it was no surprise that our Department of Tourism (DOT) headed by Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat identified Panglao as the next target of the government’s campaign to save and protect our country’s premier tourist destinations. Inspired by the successful rehabilitation of the island resort of Boracay in Aklan, the DOT Secretary announced last week before the Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) the government plans for Panglao – the next stop of the cleanup drive for tourism destinations after El Nido in Palawan.

The DOT Secretary is part of the inter-agency task force that President Rodrigo Duterte formed to rehabilitate Boracay after it was closed down by the government for almost six months. President Duterte called the Boracay waters as “cesspool” and ordered its closure from foreign and local tourists during which period all illegal underground water and sewage connections that discharge effluents all the way to beach waters were removed.

Romulo-Puyat warned tourism-oriented establishments in Panglao that are non-compliant to environmental laws will be dealt with in the same manner done to those that turned Boracay waters into “cesspool.”

While it has a booming tourism industry, Panglao remains classified as a fourth class municipality.

White sandy beaches of the island of Panglao are reportedly being deluged by local and foreign tourists at any time of the year. Thus, resorts, restaurants and bars sprouted and other business establishments that have been bringing much prosperity to some 35,000 residents in the resort island.

Although the island resort of Panglao is listed as one of the top ten diving locations in the world, it is facing, however, the lack of clean, safe and stable supply of drinking water. For many years now, as I gathered here, the Boholanos’ water comes from deep wells. It is this sorry state of the province’s water supply system that prompted an enterprising Boholano business family to see opportunities to earn and at same time provide water service to their province-mates.

Richli Corp., a private company has put up a state-of-the-art water treatment facility in Barangay Patrocinio, Cortes. Located 32 kilometers northwest of Panglao Island, the Richli bulk water and distribution project broke grounds last January 22. As I gathered here from local government officials, Bohol mainland has ample water supply but are not utilized in large scale in terms of treatment and systematic distribution.

The business of distribution of potable bulk water of Richli will serve residents in several towns in Bohol, including those living in the city of Tagbilaran. The company has a water permit from the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) to run and operate the bulk water service facility. It draws surface water from the town of Cortes.

The bulk water utility bears the shortened name of the family patriarch, Richard Lim Sr., chairman and chief executive officer of the Richard E. Lim Group of Companies. His four sons run their other family-owned companies.

The Richli family are natives of Bohol and they also own and operate Eskaya Beach Resort and Spa here in Panglao Island. Speaking for their family, Richard E. Lim, chairman and chief executive officer of Richli declared they could not agree more to the government’s policy guidance for sustainable potable water supply for residents and tourists as well. “As Boholanos, we’ve seen firsthand, the many problems our region is facing. And we want to give the people of Bohol their much needed supply of clean and safe potable water,” he said.

Along with several Manila-based members of media, we were among those invited here for a pre-inauguration briefing of the Richli bulk water project and the Panglao International Airport. Barring any last-minute hitches, no less than President Duterte will lead the inauguration rites for the international airport scheduled to be held here tomorrow.

For now, we’re here to relax and enjoy the beaches of Panglao and not for coverage of that presidential event.

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