Archive for May, 2008

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Guimaras grabs tourism alternative

May 17, 2008

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
05/17/2008

NUEVA VALENCIA, Guimaras – Frankie Aracan leads a pack of journalists through the rocky, winding trail on mountain bikes. He regularly checks if anyone is left behind or is having difficulty catching up.

A few hours later, Aracan gives pointers as they rappel down a 95-foot cliff overlooking the pristine beaches of Guimaras Island.

Aracan is not an expert mountain biker or rappeller although he has undergone training as a guide for adventure sports. On most days, he is on a tricycle ferrying passengers from the town proper of Nueva Valencia to the villages.

But like other residents of Sitio Guisi in Barangay Dolores, he is getting much needed extra income from a heritage tourist site recently launched by the Department of Tourism. He earns P250 to P350 for a day’s work as a tour guide of the community-based Guisi Discovery Quest – bigger than the average P150 he gets from his regular job.

(For the rest, click Guimaras grabs.)

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The hidden jewel that is Guimaras

May 8, 2008

Alexander R. Bautista
Manila Standard Today
May 8, 2008

From breathtaking sights to mouth-watering delicacies, Guimaras Island is a veritable treasure trove of delights. As one of the lesser-known destinations in the country, it has managed to maintain its pristine charms, charms that more than a year ago were threatened by an ecological mishap.

In August 2006, M/V Solar 1, an oil tanker chartered by Petron, sank off Guimaras’ shores, spilling 2.4 million liters of oil and contaminating 1,000 hectares of mangrove areas. The massive oil spill threatened species such as dugong and rare sea turtles. At that time, environmentalists called the accident the worst oil spill in the country’s history and estimated the cleanup to take at least a year.

But the joint efforts by the Department of Tourism, the United Nations Development Program, Canadian Urban Institute, and the Guimaras local government have worked wonders in restoring the province’s beauty. Last April 19, the coalition established a community-based tourism project called, “Guisi Discovery Quest” in Sitio Guisi, Barangay Dolores in Nueva Valencia.

(Click Hidden jewel for the rest of the story.)

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IOPC releases P7.6M oil spill claims

May 7, 2008

By Maricar M. Calubiran
The News Today, Apr. 29, 2008

Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias said the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Fund recently released a total of P7.6 million to 902 approved claimants from the five coastal municipalities of the province of Iloilo.

Banias said the release may be the last of the releases made by the IOPC as compensation to those who were affected by the oil spill that hit the island province of Guimaras on August 2006 which also caused damages to the neighboring coastal municipalities. The release was made in Concepcion, Iloilo two weeks ago.

Assisted by IOPC’s local contact Patricia Amboy, the highest release went to the municipality of Concepcion. The compensation amounted to P6.7 million for 698 approved claimants out of the 5,973 who applied for claims. The claims for the town of Concepcion was made last April 10 to 11, 2008.

Banias said each claims were distributed in the recipient towns. In Ajuy, out of the 7,970 claimants, the IOPC approved 81 who were compensated with P56,184.

The town of Miagao has 1,573 applicants but only 43 were approved and given a total compensation of P141, 226.

Meanwhile, in the town of Dumangas, there were 70 approved claimants from out of the 4,513 applicants. The claimants received a total compensation of P152,184.

The town with the least compensation was Barotac Nuevo where only 10 applicants were approved out of the 581 claims with a total compensation of P44, 888.

Applicants whose compensation claims were rejected filed an appeal. No response has been heard yet from the IOPCF.

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UNDP supports Guisi heritage tourism project

May 7, 2008

By Maricar M. Calubiran
The News Today, Apr. 24, 2008

THE United Nations Development Programme has released P995,000 for the procurement of mountain bikes, snorkeling materials and masks for the Guisi Discovery Quest, according to UNDP Resident Representative Kyo Naka. The Guisi Discover Quest is an eco-tourism initiative designed to help communities hit by the oil spill in Guimaras Island, Iloilo.

UNDP’s involvement in the Guisi Community Based Tourism initiative was primarily in response to the oil spill disaster that hit the island-province in 2006.

Guisi Discovery Quest is managed by the Barangay Dolores Tourism Council (BDTC) in Nueva Valencia, Guimaras. Aside from UNDP, the Department of Tourism and Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) also helped in the tourism project. Naka, along with Department of Tourism Secretary Joseph Durano, was in Guimaras last week for the Guisi Discovery Quest launching.

Naka said the UNDP’s intervention in the tourism initiative in Guimaras was an offshoot of their emergency meeting. The UNDP is supportive to projects with emphasis on the protection of environment and tourism friendly initiatives.

Naka said like other donor agencies that entered the island because of oil spill, the UNDP is also supportive in all human development. The Guisi Discovery Quest, which is a community-based tourism project could help the residents.

Naka added that the catastrophe has been turned into opportunity with the entry of all donor agencies in the island. If the project is done and implemented properly, it could be a model for the entire country. It will lead new areas in tourism industry.

The initiative which begins with the hospitality of the residents will draw number of tourists to the island. It will generate income for the residents.

The UNDP also wants environmental management laws in South East Asia and the International Maritime Organization to prevent similar oil spill accidents, said Naka.

The Guisi Discovery Quest, a tour package, includes a visit in the 18th Century old Guisi Lighthouse, Guisi beaches, Panluron Falls, wilderness trail, island hopping, boating, snorkeling, fishing, visit in marine sanctuaries, Hinalaran Cove and Guisi Coral Reef.

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COA finds irregularities in oil spill funds

May 7, 2008

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Visayas Bureau, Inquirer
04/23/2008

ILOILO CITY – The Commission on Audit (COA) has found irregularities in the use of P10 million in taxpayers’ money to help towns on Guimaras Island that were suffering from the country’s worst oil spill.

An 18-page report of the COA, dated Feb. 8, said some of the funds were released to municipalities that were not listed as suffering from the oil spill. A copy of the report was sent to Iloilo Gov. Niel Tupas Sr.

The P10 million was part of at least P40 million released by the Office of the President to Guimaras, Iloilo and Negros Occidental in response to calls for help from towns hurt by the oil spill.

Funds for Iloilo province were released in two installments – P5 million on Aug. 25, 2006, and another P5 million on Sept. 25 the same year. These were used to buy fishing equipment, boat engines and kerosene lanterns.

The provincial government reported that it released P1.95 million to 19 coastal municipalities and P360,000 to 13 barangays.

The COA report, however, said the provincial government also released P1.1 million to 11 coastal municipalities that were not listed as suffering from the oil spill based on a report by the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC). The towns included San Joaquin, Guimbal, Tigbauan, Leganes, Zarraga, Anilao, San Dionisio, Batad, Estancia, Balasan and Carles.

The report said the release of P1.1 million to the 11 towns violated rules on the use of taxpayers’ money. It was signed by Marietta Sofia, audit team leader, and Arlene Togonon, regional cluster director.

Manuel Mejorada, provincial administrator, denied any irregularities in the use of funds for oil spill-stricken towns.

Mejorada said the PDCC report was not an accurate basis to determine whether or not a town was suffering from the oil spill.

While the oil spill didn’t reach the shores of some towns, they also suffered because of lower fish catch, he said.

The COA report also noted a delay in the purchase and distribution of fishing equipment worth P7.68 million.

“Had the equipment been acquired earlier, the equipment and supplies could have curbed the urgent impact of the oil spill …,” the report said.

It also noted a P1.48 million overprice in the purchase of boat engines worth P4.22 million.