Sta. Fe to get tourism boost if islet becomes TEZ site

By Victor Anthony V. Silva |August 01,2016 - 10:48 PM

The tourism industry in Sta. Fe town on Bantayan Island in northern Cebu will get a big boost if one of the town’s islets will be chosen as a tourism enterprise zone (TEZ).

Sta. Fe Mayor Jose Esgana said Hilantagaan, an islet village around 30 minutes away on an outrigger banca from Barangay Talisay in Santa Fe, was among the 10 destinations all over the Philippines evaluated by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza) earlier this year.

“What we aim for is inclusive growth so we want to give our constituents livelihood opportunities. If this pushes through, we will be able to create mini-industries on the islet and many residents will be able to earn a living,” he told reporters during the Bantayan Island Business Summit in Sta. Fe town last week.

Tieza, an attached agency of the Department of Tourism (DOT), is responsible for implementing the department’s policies and programs on the development, promotion, and supervision of tourism projects in the country.

Agritourism

Esgana said the 500-hectare Hilantagaan islet, known for its pristine blue waters and powdery white sandbar, is home to at least 4,000 residents.

The mayor said Hilantagaan can be groomed for agritourism, wherein tourists may not only stay for one day or two in accommodation facilities but also get to go around and enjoy the islet’s natural beauty.

He said this will create a healthy ecosystem among tourism, farming and fishing industries, benefiting all members of the three subsectors.

At present, Esgana said there are no facilities on the islet yet.

Sta. Fe is a fourth income class municipality with a population of 28,603 according to the 2015 census.

The town’s main source of income is fishing and agriculture with some small-scale industry on the side, but its tourism industry is also becoming a strong economic driver given the increasing number of travelers who come most notably during the Holy Week to enjoy the island’s beaches.

Since the island’s airport and principal ferry port are located within the municipality, Sta. Fe is considered the gateway to Bantayan and its attached islets.

Top 3 spots

Municipal Tourism Officer Melanie Loyao, in a separate interview, explained that the Tieza is now evaluating the top three destinations in the Philippines that may benefit from its flagship tourism enterprise zone project.

“They didn’t name the other destinations, but they say they are also good. They also didn’t announce the criteria, but based on the documents we gave them, that was their basis on the rankings,” she said.

Tieza representatives first came to Sta. Fe in April this year with Hilantagaan initially picked to be in the top 10 destinations being eyed as potential TEZ sites.

Loyao said they were told by Tieza to “wait for further announcements” following a report she received that the town made it to the top three, but representatives already assured the municipal government of support to develop Hilantagaan.

Tieza’s millions

Should the islet be chosen, the tourism officer said Tieza committed to pour in “not just millions of pesos” in investments. Loyao did not elaborate.

Tieza will shoulder all expenses from infrastructure planning, development, and will even take on the responsibility of looking for potential private investors.

“We haven’t seen the MOA (memorandum of agreement), but if we get chosen, they will spend for everything since they know we don’t have that much money,” said Loyao.

Earlier this year, the Tieza approved its first two public tourism enterprise zones – San Vicente, Palawan and Rizal Park, Manila.

Tieza identified San Vicente, Palawan as its first flagship TEZ mainly for its “pristine natural attraction of forests, islands, coves, and most specially its 14.7-kilometer shorelines, which is said to be the longest in the world,” Tieza Chief Operating Officer Guiller Asido said in a news report.

This flagship project is being implemented under the country’s National Tourism Development Plan.

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