Saturday, May 24, 2008

Philippine President Samples World-Famous Bohol's Diving Spot and Resort

Written by Rey Anthony Chiu
Philippine Information Agency 

  Tackling heated deliberations on power and mediating the controversial spat between Manila Electric Company and state-run insurance system deserve cooling moments and Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo precisely did just that, few minutes after her Bohol Cabinet meeting May 20. 

  "She was excited, even with limited visibility due to the fast sunset. By the looks of it, she is coming back," a resort staff revealed as the president briefly came to the island after the dive.   

  Balicasag Resort resident manager Maria Elena Go said the president was excited when she narrated her experience even with limited visibility.

  After the Cabinet meeting, the president, accompanied by Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and navy divers immediately motored to Alona Beach in Panglao, about two hours later than scheduled to hop to Balicasag Island. 

  Squeezing into a black wet-suit and putting on a transparent plastic mask, on the diveboat before transferring to the flat boat in front of the resort, she momentarily left the world of politics for the underwater wonders of the famous dive-island in Panglao.

  Earlier, Representative Edgar Chatto, in a radio interview told listeners that the president wants to see for herself why Japanese divers rate Balicasag as the third most beautiful dive site in the world.

  Go, in an interview confessed she was worried about the delay for it was almost dark and visibility is reduced.

  For lack of time, the dive briefing, which was set at 2:00 pm in the resort happened 2 hours later, and on the boat instead.   

  An entourage of Navy divers and underwater photographers documenting the event accompanied the president and Secretary Yap as both descended into the famed Royal Garden.

  Immersing themselves first on the north side of the island, the dive point of interest are thick corals that form a kaleidoscopic multi-colored reef teeming with tropical fish. The site, simply named the Royal Garden, is also what most divers refer to the entire marine ecosystem of Balicasag.

  From there, the President and her party of divers proceeded to the thrill of swimming though the black coral forest or simply Black Forest, Balicasag resident dive master said. 

  The dive, he said offers a rare opportunity of swimming through black coral that teems at surpsingly shallow 30 meter depths. Black corals are seldom found above 50 meters. 

  Speculations bare that the island's shadow combined with the coolness and nutrients provided by currents and upwellings "deceive" the coral into thinking it's at greater depth. 

  Apart from the black corals, schools of tropical fish-such as moorfish idols, batfish and lionfish - along with assorted nudibranches, including Spanish dancers are there, Balicasag website states.

  Other Balicasag points of interest, which the President's party missed are the Cathedral Wall, Divers' Haven, Turtle Point and the Marine Sanctuary dives, all ringing the 25 hectare island off Panglao.

Multi-billion Panglao-Bohol International Airport Launched by Philippine President

By Rey Anthony Chiu - Philippine Information Agency

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo launched the construction of the P4.17-billion Panglao-Bohol International Airport here to boost the tourism and trade potentials of this world-class destination province. 

The President led the capsule-laying ceremony in Barangay Tawala assisted by Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Leandro Mendoza, Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Alfonso Cusi, Bohol Gov. Erico Aumentado, and Panglao Mayor Benedicto Alcala. 

After the capsule-laying, the President was briefed by Cusi on the status of the project funded through MIAA's P3-billion income and P1 billion from the DOTC. 

Cusi informed the President that the international airport is targeted to be operational in the first quarter of 2010 and can accommodate one million passengers per year. 

The President said no foreign loans were sourced in the construction of the Panglao International Airport as government revenue agencies have consistently exceeded their targets these past few years. 

Upon completion of the project, the President said foreign tourists can now come directly and visit the famous destinations in Bohol that include the Chocolate Hills, a candidate in the Internet search for the New Seven Wonders of Nature, and Balicasag Island, a popular breathtaking dive site which she herself had a look. 

The President said Bohol, the tenth largest island of the Philippines, is one of the tourism centers of the country. Located in the heart of the Visayas, it is famous for the tarsier, the world's smallest primate; pristine beaches and dive spots, caves and crystal springs, ancestral homes, and centuries-old churches. 

In an earlier interview, Cusi and Mendoza said the Panglao International Airport would not only cater to tourists and cargo but is expected to boost trade, investments and economic activity in Bohol as it would be a magnet for industrial parks and economic zones.

The multi-billion key infrastructure project also merited a good number of critics, one which is led by University of the Philippines Professor of Economics Ernesto Pernia and long-time airport critic and former Panglao Municipal Tourism Committee Chairman Agustin Cloribel.

Working against time in efforts to at least stall or scrap the project, Boholanos for Truth, Accountability and Reform (BOTAR) posted a paid ad in a local paper daring the provincial leaders to clarify issues involving the project.

Questions raised against the plan are its economic viability, serious environmental concerns, perceived corruption and dirty politics.

Philippine President Calls for Solution to High Oil Price and Food Shortage

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called on all political leaders to support government efforts in tackling the twin global challenges of spiraling oil prices and food shortage.

  In her opening statement at the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Cabinet group meeting at the Garden Square of the Panglao Island Nature Resort and Spa in the world-famous Panglao Island, the President stressed that too much politicking would not help solve the problem on oil and food.

  ''We have much to do to bring affordable food, energy and power to our people. I call on all our leaders to help us in this urgent task, and leave the politicking for 2010,'' the President said.

  The President added that the people are now feeling the impact of rising oil and food prices and the government continues to implement mitigating measures to ease the burden.

  Thus, she called on those who take advantage of the situation to stop and instead help government in its efforts.

  ''Let us give priority to food, livelihood and the basic needs of our people,'' the President said adding that she remains focused in improving the lives of the people, unmindful of political bickerings.

  ''(Politicking) will not bring food on the table, affordable electricity and transport fare,'' she said. - Philippine Information Agency