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Scotland in RP? Go to Batanes

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By Jesus F. Llanto
Researcher, Newsbreak
October 16, 2008

BASCO—Batanes may be the country’s least populated and smallest province but its natural resources, rich history and culture could rival wonders offered by more established tourist destinations in the Philippines.

Tourists visiting the islands will be reminded of Scotland once they see the massive cliffs and of New Zealand upon seeing the gentle rolling terrain of green pastures and the fields bounded by hedge rows. These can be found in Batan, the province’s main island and where the capital Basco is located.

In Sabtang Island, a 30-minute boat ride from Basco, the famous cobblestone houses–with walls made of  approximately 1-meter thick stones—that  withstand earthquakes and typhoons that battered the province can be found in the villages of Chavayan and Savidug.

The white sand beach of Nakabuang, which is famous for its rock formations, is also in this island.

The archeological site of the oldest settlement in the province, meanwhile, can be found in Torongan Cave in the island of Itbayat, a three-hour boat ride from the capital. Various burial sites and old churches can also be found all throughout the province.

Batanes is also a candidate in the World Heritage Site list by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

With all these natural and man-made wonders, the province hopes that its tourism sector would become its major source of income in the coming years. Batanes governor Telesforo Castillejos said that at present income from tourism is marginal but they expect it to contribute more revenue to the province’s coffers in the future.

“Eco-cultural tourism will be the major industry that will propel the economy of Batanes,” Castillejos said.

Peak season

Tourist arrivals in Batanes reached 5,000 in 2007, said acting provincial tourism officer Robert Bastillo. The figure, he said, is expected to double this year and since the latest tourist arrival data showed that a total of 8,000 have arrived.

 

Peak season is during the months of November and December and during the Holy Week.

Tess Valiente, general manager of Batanes Grand Holidays Travel and Tours, said that occupancy rate during these months reaches 100 percent. “People who want to go to Batanes during these months should make their reservations four months earlier.”

Occupancy rate, meanwhile, during rainy season reaches only to 50 percent but Valiente said it has been increasing by 10 percent due to the promos of some airline companies. (abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak)

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Disclosure: This is the last in a three-part series on Batanes. The author’s trip to the province was sponsored by NEDA.

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By Jesus F. Llanto

October  15, 2008

  

 

 

 

 

BASCO-Whenever people hear the word “Batanes,” images of strong winds and rains pounding stone houses usually come to their minds. But for the Ivatans, the province’s native inhabitants, the mainlanders’ perception of their home is inaccurate.

“We want to erase the perception that it [Batanes] is dangerous,” said Batanes governor Telesforo Castillejos adding that they want to change this misconception by promoting Batanes as an eco-tourism destination.

Located in the northernmost part of the country and in between the Pacific Ocean and South China Sea, Batanes is on the typhoon belt. The perception that it is always devastated by typhoon might have been caused by the fact that Basco, the province’s capital, hosts the last weather station in the northern part of the country.

“Batanes is always mentioned as a reference point of the typhoon,” said Milagros Rimando, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director for Region II. Rimando added that Batanes is always mentioned in weather reports even when some of the typhoons do not really cross the province’s islands.

Weather and geography

Local officials, however, admit that the frequent weather disturbance, the province natural strong winds and waves, and its archipelagic nature—the province is composed of  ten islands—have  hampered the development of its agriculture and trade. Lack of infrastructure for transport of goods from one island to another, and from mainland Luzon makes the problem worse.

“We could be isolated anytime,” said the governor adding that the seas are sometimes unnavigable even when there is no typhoon. He added that during these times, goods cannot be brought from one island to another because small vessels and boats are used in transporting them.

The prevalence of typhoons prevents the development of agriculture, particularly the production of staple crops like rice and corn. The province imports rice from neighboring provinces. “We produce only 10 percent of our rice,” said Castillejos.

Governor Castillejos added that vegetable production is very erratic in Batanes because of the weather and transportation problems—scarcity during summer and surplus during the rainy season. He said that during rainy season there is a surplus of vegetables since boats cannot transport them to other markets. “Farmers just feed the extra supply of vegetables to the pigs.”  (abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak)

Click here to read the rest of the story.

This is the first in a three-part series of stories about the province of Batanes.

(Disclosure: The author is one of the journalists who visited Batanes last September as part of the media appreciation seminar sponsored by NEDA.)

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