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Plan to split CamSur to affect tourism, traders warn

By Mary Ann Reyes (The Philippine Star) Updated July 20, 2011 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - A plan to split Camarines Sur into two would not only cost taxpayers almost P800 million in start-up funds alone for the new province but would also adversely impact on the tourism upsurge in CamSur, local business executives said.

CamSur has risen lately as the country’s leading tourist draw on the strength of its world-class Watersports Complex (CWC) and now internationally famous Caramoan Islands.

Business leaders belonging to the Camarines Sur Chamber of Commerce said that in lieu of “balkanizing” the province, what Bicol’s emerging powerhouse needs is all-out support of all sectors behind the provincial government’s heightened efforts to jointly promote Caramoan Islands and the CamSur Watersports Complex (CWC) in Pili.

Caramoan was the site of five editions of the global reality TV hit “Survivors” while CWC hosted the first two annual Cobra Ironman 70.3 Championships and will again host this international triathlon’s third edition next month. Over a thousand professional and amateur triathletes here and abroad are taking part in Ironman, which is an official qualifier to the two world championships later this year in Hawaii and Las Vegas.

The chamber’s chairman and past president Butch Figuracion and its vice president Roger Peyra feared that the provincial government’s successful efforts to promote Caramoan and CWC as a package to foreign and domestic tourists alike would be undermined by House Bill 4728, which seeks to carve out from Iriga City and the 15 municipalities in the 4th and 5th districts a new province to be named Nueva Camarines.

Figuracion and Peyra said the congressional approval of HB 4728 would disturb the existing tourism plan for CamSur, which has proven to be a highly successful formula as shown by its current status as the country’s No.1 tourism hub based on official data from the Research and Statistics Division of the Department of Tourism (DOT).

Authored by Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella, HB 4728 was approved by the House of Representatives on the eve of Congress’ sine die adjournment last June even if no public hearing was ever held in the province to get the sentiments of the public and inputs from local political and business leaders on this highly unpopular move, they added.

Earlier, local elective officials led by Mayor Rey Lacoste, provincial chapter president of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines; Councilor James Jaucian of the municipality of Libmanan, who is provincial chapter president of the Philippine Councilors’ League, Liga ng mga Barangay and chairman Domingo Briones of Barangay Tambo in Pamplona, who is provincial chapter president of the Liga ng mga Barangay; also blasted Fuentebella for pushing this bill, and called on the Senate to save CamSur by junking HB 4728.

Figuracion said that rather than waste almost P800 million of taxpayers’ money on the proposed Nueva Camarines, the bill’s proponents should just abandon HB 4728 and work instead with the provincial leadership in fully transforming CamSur into a tourism haven and economic powerhouse in Bicol.

“You cannot separate these two sites as they are packaged together to bring in tourists to CamSur. What will happen now if a new province is created severing Caramoan Island from CamSur? It will upset the provincial government’s blueprint for CamSur’s tourism industry and the business sector’s plans to expand or open up new ventures in the province,” Peyra said.

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