Speech of Governor Hilario P. Davide III at the 18th ITOP Forum

Hilario P. Davide III
Governor of the Province of Cebu
at the 18th ITOP Forum

[Delivered at Angsana Laguna Phuket Resort, Phuket, Thailand on August 20, 2014]

Rebuilding Inclusive and Resilient Tourism in Cebu

Good Morning.

A warm Mabuhay from the Philippines.

Last week, the Philippines was ranked fifth in having the most number of beachfront hotels, according to a survey of more than 11,000 hotels in 109 countries.

Thailand ranked first with more than 1,250 beachfront properties, followed by the US with 1,016, Mexico with 943 and Spain with 736, said the survey by the Beachfront Club, a website that maps and details seaside hotels around the world.

The report quoted the Bangkok-based website defining true beachfront hotels as those directly on the beach or oceanfront with no road or traffic between the rooms and water.

It has also noted the Philippines, famed for its beautiful beaches, as having a steady increase in its tourism arrivals over the past few years.
Total international tourist arrivals reached 4.7 million in 2013, surpassing the 4.3 million arrivals recorded in 2012 by 9.56 percent.

That is the Philippines. Now, let us take a look at Cebu.

About Cebu

Cebu is an island located in Central Philippines, approximately 300 kilometers in length and about 40 kilometers at the widest point. A coastal road encircles the island, and several smaller roads intersect and cross east to west. About half of the 3 million population of the island reside in the three cities – the capital city of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapulapu, all along the central portion of the east coast.

The Mactan-Cebu International Airport is in Lapulapu, a few minutes from the central business district; the international port is in Cebu City.

The predominant language is Bisaya or Binisaya – a derivation from the Shri Vishayan family of languages –Spanish terms like pasajero for passenger and turista for tourists have been absorbed into the Binisaya. The national language Tagalog is understood; but, almost all of the people, especially those in the tourism industry, speak English. And that is perhaps one of our biggest advantages.

The predominant religious denomination is Roman Catholic – began when Portuguese explorer Fernando Magallanes landed in our shores in 1521.

Like the rest of the Philippines, Cebu enjoys warm weather throughout the year, with an almost even distribution of rainfall. Air currents are the northeast monsoon around October to January, and then there is trade winds from the Pacific from February to April and then the southeast monsoon from May to September.

The Asian culture of hospitality – warmth and friendliness – is very much ingrained in the Cebuano.

Tourism in Cebu

Due to the political troubles of the middle to late 70s, tourism operators were selling Cebu – not as a province in the Philippines – but, as an “Island in the Pacific.”
Simply put, we are all islands in the Pacific.

The biggest number of foreign tourists coming into Cebu last year came from Korea followed by those coming from the United States, with China and Japan about equal in third and fourth place. In Cebu City and Mandaue, there are Korean restaurants, Korean barbershops, and Korean medical doctors. There is even a Roman Catholic Church in Cebu patronized by the Korean faithful.

Last year, about 72 percent of foreign tourists stayed in the three biggest cities, 13 percent went to the beaches and the dive spots in the southern part of Cebu, about 9 percent travelled north for the beaches and golf.

Some 2 point 6 million tourists visited Cebu last year. Of these, around 1 point 4 million were domestic travelers, and a little over 1 million were foreign nationals.

This is both good – because, we do not become too dependent on the health of the economy of other countries, and not very good – because domestic tourists tend to spend less than foreign nationals.

Average stay last year was just 1 point 7 days. Domestic visitors spent around 32 US dollars, foreign tourists spent an average of 93 US dollars. Most of that money goes to shopping for both local and imported goods, accommodation and food and beverages.

Looking Forward, a Better Framework

In November last year, Typhoon Haiyan hit Central Philippines. It was the strongest typhoon to hit the country in a hundred years. Winds from 200 to 250 kilometers per hour swept through the northern tip of Cebu, and wiped out almost one hundred percent of the tourism infrastructure.

Our response to the devastation in the north is “build back better.” This applies – very importantly – to the tourism industry.

Our efforts of rebuilding the tourism industry is based on the assumption that: one, there will be another typhoon; and two, it could be stronger than the one which struck us in November last year. A safer and more resilient tourism industry shall be built on, and in a community aware of risks, and adapted to climate change.

The Cebu rehabilitation, recovery and development framework is anchored on four complementary strategic pillars that define interventions and processes to achieve a safer, adaptive and disaster resilient communities.

The first pillar refers to interventions at the macro and micro levels that support the establishment of the foundations of disaster risk management and climate change adaptation and the building of resilient communities through policy reforms and institutional development.

A tangible example of this is a functional barangay or village, and municipal level Disaster Risk Reduction Offices. We are also going to adopt the Okinawan example of disaster drills, particularly for workers and clients in the tourism sector.

The second pillar rests on community-driven interventions and processes to promote the convergent delivery of services and goods.

The third pillar shall spearhead the prioritization of interventions that address regional and sub-regional development challenges that will contribute to resilient and adaptive communities.

This involves meso or middle level interventions that address sub-regional development challenges, including constraints to regional economic development; stronger and more efficient connectivity between vulnerable and less protected areas with more prosperous and better protected areas; and,

The fourth pillar includes interventions to sustain social and economic infrastructure introduced. Protection of people’s rights, correct Land Use Management, protection of the environment and mainstreaming of climate-smart disaster risk management into tourism programs and activities will be carried out and implemented through capacity building and social preparation activities.

Establishing our tourism program based on and engaged with an enabled community and protective of the planet’s bio-diversity and the environment is in line with the United Nations resolution urging eco-tourism for poverty eradication passed by the UN General Assembly a year and a half ago. We link our tourism strategy to job creation, in the host community; food and water supply security; the health of our oceans and disaster risk reduction. It recognizes and believes in the three pillars for a sustainable tourism industry: economic, social, and environmental.

The Cebu tourism development plan is anchored on the country’s National Eco-Tourism Strategy and Action Plan approved last year. This aims to explore the country’s built-in advantage of over 7,000 islands and islets, many of them large and isolated enough to be allowed to develop their own uniqueness; a diverse array of mountains, forests, caves, coasts and seascape; a rich diversity of flora and fauna; and a cultural tapestry influenced by regional traders from over a thousand years ago, to the more recent explorations from Europe and the New World.

The plan also adopts the recommendations made by a joint effort between the German Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit or GIZ and the Department of Trade and Industry of the Philippine national government. We will specifically look at the micro, small and medium enterprises in the tourism sector – outside of the urban centers.

We believe this addresses the UN recommendation to make tourism as a tool for job creation, income generation and the fight against poverty.

Some Specific Programs

In the north is the island of Malapascua. It is a Spanish term for “bad Christmas.” But, we do not know how that came about.

It is a small island, just 136 hectares, oval in shape, around 26 meters at the highest elevation, and gently sloping to the beaches. It is located just 9 kilometers from the northern tip of the main island, just a 30 minute languid ride by motorized outrigger boats.

The growth of tourism in Malapascua exceeded the usual percentages. Instrumental to this was its inclusion in a guidebook titled Lonely Planet, very popular among European backpackers. Many visitors today are returnees. Out of the 46 tourist establishments in Malapascua, 31 are located along its southern shore, the shore facing the mainland of Cebu.

Just a few weeks ago, I approved a development plan for Malapascua. These were based on a rational assessment of the island’s specific strengths, weaknesses, the opportunities for future growth and the threats to development plans.

And, curiously, among the threats recognized by the stakeholders is the uncontrolled entry of tourists.

The tourism – and economic development – strategy we are adopting for Malapascua is aligned with the development strategy developed for the area damaged by last year’s typhoon, which included this islet.

It shall: first, ensure appropriate utilization of resources; second, such utilization must yield maximum economic benefit to the local residents; and, three, respect of the local’s right of tenure, and protection of the local culture and the island’s natural resources.

All plans and activities shall conform to that strategy.

We have identified five programs to serve the strategy.

One, is the development of a livelihood program feasible for the community, parallel to the traditional fishing and complementary to the tourism industry. Part of this program shall be a “branding” and crafting a unique identity for Malaspascua – this involves specific souvenir items, a specific food or delicacy or some specific activity. This has yet to be developed.

Two, we will improve local governance in the community, and in relation to the municipality. This involves a better revenue collection, an efficient government service to the tourist community, and the development of credit facilities for local businessmen.

Effective governance includes the establishment of a framework and the proper institutions to ensure rational growth, a system to ensure peace and order and the security of both local residents and visitors and an effective feedback mechanism so that monitoring, evaluation and local administration is participated in by all stakeholders.

The third program is an intensified education for the Malapascua community on ecology and the environment. Activities protecting the environment and enhancing the natural resources – from solid waste management, to protection of corals and mangrove area best pursued by a community wanting to do so motivated by long term interests, rather than imposed upon them by authority.

Fourth, is the establishment of proper infrastructure.

We have appropriated funds for the construction of a small circumferential roadway. We are also establishing a protocol where we could engage private investors for a hybrid power supply – solar and wind – to supplement, hopefully, replace the expensive, noisy and polluting diesel power generators now relied upon by the community.

Water supply is a big issue in Malapascua. The only potable water source is located in one corner of the island. The continued pumping of what is called “gray water” from the other wells has accelerated intrusion of salt water into the island’s aquifer. This cannot be sustained. A substantial percentage among the locals and 100 percent of all visitors consume bottled water ferried from the mainland. A desalination plant to anticipate future growth must be established, and this requires cheap and reliable power.
And the fifth component of this strategy is developing a system of monitoring and evaluation to ensure that future specific programs or activities serve the general strategy.

The Malapascua Development Program shall operate under a wider umbrella covering the town of Daanbantayan, where Malapascua politically belongs, and the neighboring local government units.

We call this the Local Government Support Program for Local Economic Development or LGSP-LED assisted by a Canadian government grant. This is joint program of the Provincial Government of Cebu, the Philippine national government through the Department of Interior and Local Government, and the private sector, through the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Bantayan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

This is a two-year program intended to capacitate local governments – both in the municipal and village levels, and local communities, to develop their tourism identity or branding, draw their own tourism investment plans and programs unique to their locality and to forge linkages among the local government units, tourism sector stakeholders, and communities in the circuit.

This program will develop a tourism circuit connecting the shopping malls and banking services in Bogo, the biggest city in the northern mainland, the golf course in the nearby plantation towns Medellin and San Remegio, and the beaches and dive spots of Madridejos and Sta. Fe and the old world charm of Bantayan town.

The general objective is to provide the visitor, whether domestic or foreign, a varied range of sights, activities, cultures and experiences to make him or her stay longer and spending more.

Another relevant program is the USAID-funded Advancing Philippine Competitiveness (COMPETE) Project, which seeks to assist the Philippines, particularly Cebu and Bohol, to improve its competitiveness to attain higher levels of trade and investment. To this end, the Project will provide technical assistance to enhance the regime for infrastructure provision, improve productivity in key industries, and increase access to credit.

It is fortuitous that this year’s ITOP theme is centered on sustainable maritime tourism just as we, in Cebu, are starting out an ambitious program to develop the tourism industry in our smaller islands and islets.

The immediate to medium term will pay attention first, to the north, mainly because of the greater economic and social need following the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan. We will also look at the now fairly developed natural attractions to the south of the island and to the west.

The beaches and the dive spots along the southwest portion of Cebu are fairly well-known; the rapidly growing whale-watching activity along the southeast is starting to develop; and a mangrove-based tourism attraction is gestating in the west coast.

We are hoping that the 70 – 30 sharing of tourist arrivals in Cebu favoring the urban center could be made more equitable in the future. We are hoping that more community-based “Ridge to Reef” tourism initiatives are supported and established benefitting the local communities, as well.

I look forward to inter-acting with the leaders from the other member-provinces. I look forward to learning much from your own experiences. I look forward to forging stronger links with the international community.

I am bringing home these learning to foster resilient tourism in Cebu.

Thank you very much for this privilege of addressing this assembly.

God bless us all.