Monday, July 7, 2014

Quake opens windows
For new tourism sites

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol July 4, (PIA) –“When God closes a door, He opens a window.”

That was how Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto sums it all, when responding to travel and leisure magazine writers who asked how Bohol has fared after the October 15 great earthquake. 

Speaking to local media and national leisure magazine writers at the sidelines of the Bohol Sandugo Month opener during the Tagbilaran City 48th Charter Day, Chatto, along with City Mayor John Geesnel Yap and Provincial Tourism Council (PTC) representative, Nonette Bolo univocally declared Bohol tourism rising better than expected, after the earthquake. 

The three of them agreed that the earthquake dealt a nasty blow to Bohol tourism: centuries old churches toppled and reduced to rubbles and Chocolate Hills scarred as landslides and earth movements ruined tourism road networks. 

But, the earthquake also pushed Boholanos into opening up more tourism destinations, even in the most disaster wrecked areas. 

The earthquake has partly toppled the historic Punta Cruz Watchtower in Maribojoc, the tremor uplifted the coastlines in the vicinity of the historic important cultural property stone tower gaining for this part of Bohol, more land when the water permanently receded exposing wider coastlines.

“In the more than 400 hectares of additional coastal areas in Maribojoc and Loon, a geological science center will rise,” Chatto said. 

The earthquake which hit Bohol early morning manifested itself through a five-kilometer, 3 meter subsidence in Anonang Inabanga, which instantly became a tourist destination on its own. 

Bohol Fault Museum will rise in the five-kilometer faultline that manifested, Chatto told media at the Bohol Cultural Center Tagbilaran City press conference. 

As Bohol lost major churches in Loon, Maribojoc and Loboc, the governor shared that some of the churches would be rebuilt, some other ruins offered as tourist attraction where monuments and markers would show how the church was before the earthquake. 

Even the Chocolate Hills, which have earned the interest of scientists wanting to study the core of the hills now present itself as an easy specimen, the multi-awarded leader shared. 

Some hills among the 1268 hay-cock hills in Bohol were sheared, exposing the core of the mounds and providing scientists that elusive chance to see for themselves the structure that has baffled many people across centuries. 

Meeting media at the launching of Bohol’s premier festival month that carries with it the biggest load of tourists in Bohol’s monthly arrivals count so far, Chatto, Yap and Bolo also represent the new management of the Sandugo Festival in 2014.

Then managed by Bohol Sandugo Foundation, the now month-long festival is a cultural celebration based on the historic blood compact between Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and local chieftain Datu Sikatuna celebrated in July.

This year, despite the disaster, Bohol officials all the same, invited tourists still, to the Sandugo, and then to the new tourism destinations opened after the tremor interrupted tourism activities here. (PIABohol/RAC)

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RDC-7 endorses LTEZ
For TIEZA registration

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol, July 2, (PIA) –The Central Visayas Regional Development Council (RDC-7) endorsed the establishment of the Loon Tourism Enterprise Zone (LTEZ), a crucial pile that supports the framework of the socio-economic recovery for Bohol and most especially to earthquake devastated Loon.

The RDC support and project endorsement is a crucial step in LTEZ registration at the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zones Authority (TIEZA), said Congressman Rene Relampagos, at the sidelines of the RDC Full Council Meeting in Bohol last week. 

Relampagos, the House Tourism Chair said that Republic Act No. 9593 (Tourism Act of 2009) supports the establishment of Tourism Enterprise Zones (TEZs) which will contribute to the accelerated creation of employment opportunities by encouraging and supporting investments in the development and operation of these zones.

The TIEZA (formerly Philippine Tourism Authority), is a Department of Tourism attached agency mandated to designate, regulate and supervise the TEZs, as well as develop, manage and supervise tourism infrastructure projects in the country. It shall supervise and regulate the cultural, economic and environmentally sustainable development of TEZs toward the primary objective of encouraging investments, states TIEZAs website.

These TEZs will be the centers of tourism development in the country and are created with the objective of providing the necessary vehicle to coordinate actions of the public and private sectors to address development barriers, attract and focus investment on specific geographical areas and upgrade product and service quality.

An LTEZ registration at the TIEZA allows its operators and tourism enterprises operators some fiscal incentives, six years Income Tax Holidays (ITH) for new enterprise in tourism zones and even more if they undertake substantial expansion or upgrades within the first six years of operations. 

Also, according to TIEZA website, a TEZ operator or registered tourism enterprise is allowed to deduct from its gross income for the next six consecutive years its net operating losses, and in lieu of all national internal revenue taxes and local taxes, imposts, assessments , fees, and licenses, registered tourism enterprises pay only 5% on its gross income earned from its registered activities as its tax. 

Tax-free and duty-free importation TEZ operators and registered tourism enterprises are also entitled to an exemption of 100% of all taxes and duties on the importation of capital investment and equipment, transportation equipment and spare parts, consumption goods, and services, subject to certain conditions. 

Moreover, tourism enterprises within the TEZ are entitled to tax credits equivalent to all national internal revenue taxes 

paid on all locally-sourced goods and services directly or indirectly used by the registered enterprise for services actually rendered within the TEZ. 

A TIEZA registration also offers social responsibility incentives to TEZ operators and registered tourism enterprises: a 50% equivalent of the cost of environmental protection or cultural heritage, preservation activities, sustainable livelihood programs for local communities, and other similar activities as approved by the TIEZA Board.

Earlier, Loon local government identified the LTEZ establishment under its post-earthquake recovery program.

The town council also based the proposal to the framework and action recommendations of the DOT-Japan International Cooperation Agency Central Philippines Sustainable Tourism Master Plan which has included the establishment of international cruise tourism activities and improvement of other tourist destinations, which anchors on the establishment of a cruise ship port in Catagbacan. 

The plan also dovetails with Bohol’s Tourism Corridor Competitive strategies which puts Loon in the map as a major cruise ship destination for regional and international tourists. 

The LTEZ is also strategically located that it is in close proximity to white beaches, teeming marine life, sports, eco-tourism and world class dive sites, sources from Loon said.

The LTEZ would be established in Loon and would cover the vicinity of Catagbacan Port including its mangrove areas for conservation, foreshores and backwaters, the islands of Cabilao and Sandingan and the established Loon Tourism Circuit Zone including the coastal uplifted zones from the boundaries of Maribojoc-Loon to Calape.

Loon officials said it will operate the LTEZ as the town’s revenue generation economic enterprise, after they can complete a decade-long investment program which it is developing with Bohol and private sector experts. 

To this, the LGU has already prepared its application for registration even as the town council has endorsed the project to appropriate government agencies. 

Bohol LGU has similarly endorsed the LTEZ, but a requirement in the registration at TIEZA would allow Loon to dangle offers to enterprise zone investors. (PIABohol/RAC)

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RDC endorses move for P2200
Daily travel expense allowance

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol July 3, (PIA) –Central Visayas Regional Development Council, endorsed a measure to finally implement a much needed upward adjustment of allowances for official local travels of government personnel.

In its full council meeting held at the posh Bohol Tropics in Tagbilaran City, Bohol, the RDC has formally supported the move to upgrade the per diems of government personnel, one that is provided in the Administrative Code of 1987 (Executive Order 292).

Section 72, Chapter 7, Book VI of EO 182 provides for a per diem of government personnel on an authorized travel on official business outside of his permanent station. 

The per diem travel allowance will be used to pay for his board and lodging in accordance with the personnel’s schedule of travel and itinerary. 

Prescribing the rules and regulations including the rates of allowances for official travel, from P300.00 per day in 1995 to P800.00 since 2004 are several executive orders already, according to the RDC. 

EO 248, for example, which was issued in 1995 prescribed the P300.00 daily rate. Section 17 of the same order provided for the automatic rate adjustment, should the rate becomes insufficient after five years of issuance of the EO. 

Then, the EO298 amended the EO 248 and provided for the P800.00 as the new rate of allowable travel allowance.

But, since then, over 10 years have passed and there not been any rate adjustment, which stands contrary to EO 248, the RDC Development Administration Committee said.

Over this, the RDC-DAC recommended that the RDC full Council request President Benigno S. Aquino III, through his Travel Rates Committee for an amendment of EO 248 and prescribe the upward adjustment of the allowable travel expenses of government personnel.

The RDC DAC believes raising the P800.00 to P2,200 can momentarily cover the price increases as well as anticipates price increases in the next five years. 

Of the P2,200, the following are apportioned: Hotel and lodging expenses (P1,500.00), Meals (P450.00) at P150.00 and incidental expenses at P250.00.

To preclude ambiguous interpretation of the allowable travel allowances in the avail-ment of incidental expenses, the amended EO shall provide specifically that the provision of incidental expenses is not contingent upon board and lodging being provided by the government, the RDC said. 

The RDC members also hope the measure snowballs and be one that would upgrade the travel rates, which has now become grossly insufficient. 

The RDC endorsed the measure amid resounding applause. (PIABohol/RAC)

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Abatan, Moalong bridges 
can’t be done by Sept ‘14 

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol, June 30, (PIA) – Getting a replacement for the temporary steel component bridge that spans Abatan Bridge and Moalong may take longer that September 2014 as promised. 

The Department of Public Works and Highways in region 7 however said, it is undertaking geotechnical investigation and soil exploration for the reconstruction of the permanent bridge targeted to start in April 2014 and for completion in September 2014. 

No less than Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Regional Director Ador Canlas who appraised Regional Development Council -7 (RDC-7) members that procurement of the materials for the permanent structures spanning Abatan River in Cortes-Maribojoc towns and Moalong River in Loon does not begin until the first week of July 2014. 

In his visit to Bohol in time for the re-opening of the collapsed Abatan Bridge, President Benigno S. Aquino III said a permanent structure would replace the temporary steel component bridge in Abatan, the reconstruction targeted to start in April 2014 and for completion in September 2014. 

But making the date proved harder as the RDC-7 in its full council meeting June 26, only approved the recommendation that Abatan and four bridges in Bohol needing immediate replacement to be funded by the Government of France under a specific foreign funding scheme for bridges. 

The October 15 earthquake which hit Bohol collapsed a pile of Abatan and sent reinforced deck girders into the river rendering the bridge impassable by wheeled traffic. Other bridges suffered similar fates, in various degrees of devastation. 

The destruction interrupted the flow of critical relief and rehabilitation to earthquake devastated areas in Bohol. 

In the succeeding days after the earthquake, a DPWH task Force along with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Technical Cooperation Project Team conducted as assessment of earthquake-damaged infrastructure facilities. 

The team identified 15 bridges which were in different states of devastation, recommended for replacement five totally ruined bridges and also pushed for major repairs and rehabilitation of nine other bridges which were severely damaged. 

Among the five bridges for replacement were Abatan in Cortes-Maribojoc, Moalong in Loon, Tagbuane in Alburquerque, Desamparados and Tultugan bridges both in Calape. 

The team also picked Anislag Bridge (Maribojoc), Mandaug (Calape), Bateria (Tubigon), Bacane (Clarin), Damiao (Inabanga), Hunan (Buenavista), Clarin, Palo and Hinawanan Bridges in Loay for major rehabilitation while Taguimtim Bridge (Getafe) is set for minor repair. 

Earlier, the DPWH ensured links in the road networks in Bohol and laid temporary bridges on top of the collapsed or severely damaged bridges, a little over a month after the quake. 

During Abatan’s opening to traffic, no less than President Benigno Simeon Aquino III assured that a permanent bridge would replace the temporary structures, adding that it would be constructed on a better venue and should be operational by 2014. 

And to assure the safety of people traversing the temporary structures, the DPWH also proposed to undertake the reconstruction and repair for the first three bridges which they identified for funding under the Mega Bridges for Urban and Rural Development. 

Two others: Desamparados and Tultugan Bridges are also for the Tulay ng Pangulo Para sa Kaunlarang Pang-agraryo (TPKP). 

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Investment Coordination Committee-Technical Board on its meeting in May, 2014, has pushed the project to the Cabinet Committee level for approval. 

For the remaining projects, the DPWH planned to implement the remaining 9 other repair and rehab projects for funding under the JICA-Assisted Road Upgrading and Preservation project. 

For Taguimtim Bridge, the DPWH proposed for the minor repair and rehabilitation using local DPWH District Engineering Office local funds. (PIABohol/RAC)

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