ILOILO City – The Department of Tourism in Western Visayas (DOT-6) will help the island province of Guimaras to get back on the tourist map.
DOT-6 director Helen Catalbas said they are aware of Guimaras’ tourism status, which suffered a setback after the Iloilo Strait mishap on Aug. 3.
Catalbas raised her concern that some DOT-accredited tour operators have received cancellation of scheduled tourist visits in Guimaras after the tragedy.
The maritime incident, according to Catalbas, had triggered stricter measures to prevent another sea mishap.
Boat trips are only allowed from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., tarpaulins or canvas at the motorized bancas should be rolled up and passengers should wear life jackets throughout the trip, among others, based on the guidelines of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA).
The stricter guidelines had brought inconvenience to passengers, as some complained due to heat or rain during boat trips.
“The visit of tourists is limited in time and specific schedules should fit in their visit, but now, with drizzle and lightning and the heat during fair weather when there are trips of pump boats, many of them don’t want to be exposed to the scorching heat of the sun. In both ways, fair and bad weather, still not favorable,” Catalbas said.
While there are also fast crafts available to ferry passengers from Iloilo to Guimaras, and vice versa, Catalbas said the waiting time is also not conducive for visitors.
“Fast crafts are big but they have to wait for certain number of passengers to go and it wouldn’t be feasible to charter that just to cross the channel to Guimaras Strait to take a tour,” she said.
She said DOT-6 will “call for a consultation and updating session” to discuss the concerns.
“The DOT-6 will call for a consultation and updating session with MARINA, Philippine Coast Guard, local government units, tour operators, tourism stakeholders in Guimaras and ask them, in the face of all constraints, what should we do and how should we reposition Guimaras as a tourist destination at this point in time?,” Catalbas said.
The DOT-6 plans to hold the consultation session this month.
The regional director said she could not meddle in the mandate of other government agencies because of the inter-agency courtesy. “The LGUs have their own mandate to do,” she said.
Some of the concerns that will be raised in the consultation meeting include ways on how the tourism sector can deal with the uncertainty of boat trips plying Guimaras and Iloilo routes.
“Should we stop for a while promoting Guimaras until it has fixed its problem? Or despite all the problems, we keep on promoting but on certain conditions? Are we going to get the same sets of tourists like the group tours, if we are going to target the group tours and how can we deal with this on and off trip of the pump boats?,” Catalbas said, adding that the consultation meeting will seek for solutions on the issues. (With a report from PNA/PN)