Bicol tourism exec hits Australian travel advisory
By Ephraim Aguilar
LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines -- The Department of Tourism (DOT) in Bicol lashed out at a travel advisory issued by the Australian government warning its nationals in the Philippines against visiting tourist destinations in the region.
The advisory came after an attack by alleged New People's Army (NPA) rebels on the facilities of Australian-owned El Dore Mining Corp. in Labo, Camarines Norte last October 3.
Another Australian-owned mining firm, Lafayette Philippine Inc., is also reportedly under threat of attacks by communist guerrillas, the Philippine Army, citing intelligence reports, earlier disclosed.
But Bicol tourism director Maria Ong-Ravanilla said it was unfair for the Australian government to implicate the whole of the region when the attacks were only isolated cases in a town or two.
“These attacks don't happen every day and the tourist destinations in Bicol are far from where the incidents happened,” Ong-Ravanilla said in a mobile phone interview.
She added that while the Australian government may have only intended to protect its citizens, it should have first verified the real security situation in the region before issuing such an advisory.
Ong-Ravanilla said Australians are the fifth most numerous tourists to the Bicol region, considering their country’s proximity within the Asia Pacific-region.
Based on tourist arrivals from January to July this year, also in the top five are the United States, first, followed by Japan, Taiwan, and Germany.
Among these countries, only Australia has issued a travel advisory in the wake of rebel activity.
The most recent incidents were the strafing of a cell site in Magallanes, Sorsogon by alleged NPA rebels on Sunday, which slightly damaged the facility, and the torching of another cell site in Libmanan, Camarines Sur on Saturday.
Ong-Ravanilla said there has been an increase in tourist arrivals in Bicol this year.
“There were 59,000 tourist arrivals from January to July this year. This is way [above] the 49,000 tourist arrivals for the entire 2006,” she said.
Bicol is located in the southeastern end of Luzon and is home to the world-famous Mayon Volcano in Albay province, the whale shark sanctuary in Donsol, Sorsogon, and CamSur Water Sports Complex in Pili, Camarines Sur.