Wednesday, 03 February 2010 00:00 [ manilatimes.net ]
BY FRANCIS C. HIDALGO JR. Correspondent
TUGUEGARAO CITY: Cagayan’s still unexplored Babuyan group of is lands has all the potentials to be one of the country’s leading tourism destinations at par, or could even surpass, more known tourism sites, including Aklan’s much touted Boracay beaches.
According to Cagayan’s economic consultant Juan “Jack” Ponce Enrile Jr., the Babuyan islands in the South China Sea-Pacific Ocean coastlines are the province’s “sleeping giants” in terms of tourism potentials, and that their development would surely accelerate economic boom in the country’s northernmost areas.
“Tourism should stimulate regional economies. We have the best to offer for tourists from China. These are one of Cagayan’s best kept secrets and [we] should take advantage of [our province’s] proximity to Asia’s tiger economies,” said Enrile, who is a former three-term representative of Cagayan’s first congressional district, which covers Babuyan group of islands.
Known for its pristine forest and white-sand beaches, the Babuyan islands include Calayan, Camiguin, Dalupiri, Babuyan Claro and Fuga.
“White sand dominates Fuga island, reputed to be the most beautiful of them all, while the other islands all have great beaches,” said Enrile.
The full opening of the China-Asean Free Trade Area (CAFTA) that started on January 1, Enrile said, is expected, among other things, to boost tourism and economic development not only in Cagayan but in the entire Northern Luzon area, considering that “China and Asean will become the world’s largest free
Asean is composed of the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar.
“In terms of proximity, Cagayan Valley is the nearest to the huge market of affluent and young Chinese who are looking for new tourist destinations,” he said, adding that the region “has a lot to offer, in terms of reduced travel time and cost, the eco-tourism we have as well as our excellent resorts and state-of-the-art facilities.”
Besides the Babuyan islands, white beaches, underwater sports, rugged cliffs, spectacular rock formations, series of pristine waterfalls also await at Palaui Island in northernmost Santa Ana town, where it based the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), the country’s fastest-growing industrial, logistics, tourism and investment hub.
“We are at the forefront of this window of opportunity as we have the geographic edge, being the northernmost point of the country and thus the nearest to China,” said Enrile.
Under the CAFTA, Enrile said, the Philippines, especially Cagayan is expected to tap into tourism, business services, electronics, agricultural produce, fruits, fishery products and minerals, English teaching, eco-medical and retirement care services.