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Managing PTA’s 13 destinations is never fun
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Judy Mvb Green
Date: 2004-06-30
Barber’s appointment at the PTA began with a messy tiff. Nixon T. Cua, an appointee of ousted President Joseph Estrada took over after Estrada political adviser and PTA GM Lito Banayo resigned. However, with Estrada’s ouster in 2001, Cua’s chances of retaining the post dimmed; and when it was time to leave, he loudly refused, insisting that he is entitled to serve out the entire six-year term (in which case, he would relinquish the position in 2006).

The Authority remembers that day, the young new GM came to report for work. Yet, there were not a few employees and members of the Authority’s union who came to meet him. Led by the energetic- now Regional Operations Department Manager Shirley Gazmen- Aguilar who heartily put the lei around Barber’s neck and toured him around the Authority circuit. When he reached the General Manager’s Office; alas.. the immediate past incumbent (GM Nixon T. Cua) had fastened and bolted the entrance to the General Manager’s Office and hanged a huge "No Vacancy!" sign. Sensing the humiliation and inconvenience of the incoming GM; Engr. Jose Dion D. Diaz, Deputy General Manager for Infrastructure of the Philippine Tourism Authority, founder and chairman of the Indigenous Games, Sports Savers Association (IGSSAP), and popular Arnis Guru, offered his office to the new GM.

Finally, assuming his post in December 2002 following a favorable ruling by the courts, Barbers found the Philippine Tourism Authority is like a house that needed a fresh coat of paint, and after two Mondays at work; he noticed that it was an embarrassing 30 of 600-plus employees attending the morning flag ceremonies required of all government employees; not everybody was wearing their uniforms sans the PTA ID and people loitered in the corridors. Barbers resolved to restore discipline and bring back the lost pride in the tourism agency.

Today, Barbers is faced by 13 active entities resorts, hotels, parks, golf courses and other tourism-related establishments. But above all, Barbers has to keep an eye on the 66 various properties, assets and projects all over the country, half of it is idle. Such is the state of the PTA today that even a quick valuation of its assets is hard to pin down considering the various states of all the properties, assets and projects.

The PTA has been traditionally a politically charged office as its influence stretches to all local governments. It has huge potential for revenue generation and if it falls into the wrong hands, it will be an abysmal bottomless pit of corruption, according to Barbers.

Where the PTA Gets Its Fund

The 27 percent travel taxes paid by tourists and from revenues generated by the resorts, hotels and golf courses it owns and manages. Barbers explained that for the last five years, the main office has been subsidizing the entities to the tune of about R25 million. During Barber’s management – in 2003, this went down to R15 million, something Barbers said will have to be pared down until a point when the agency will break even.

Whoever sits at the helm of the PTA must be a talented salesman who can sell these entities not only to tourists but also to local governments which will host them. The PTA invests in and develops local tourists sites, then eventually divests in favor of local management of these sites.

WOW, BEST – Barbers Original SPIN

WOW ("Wealth of Wonders") is a catchphrase Richard Gordon, the former Tourism Secretary rallied to during his campaign and won for him a senatorial slate. "WOW" (Wealth of Wonders), aptly describes how the young Barbers sees the Philippine’s potential as a tourism destination.

BEST, another Barbers spin stands for Boosting, Eco-Socio Tourism. "I believe, you shouldn’t sacrifice the environment for development," he said. The Dean of the Philippine Tourism Authority, also heads the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving, the government agency which governs scuba diving activities in the country. He plans to position the Philippines as a scuba diving destination like the popular diving spots in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

On Barbers’ agenda is to ask the President to issue an Executive Order (EO) that will give the commission more powers to protect the reefs, control dive operators and even fishing vessels. He also plans to build a tourist facility in Tubbataha Reef to make the famed marine sanctuary in the Sulu Seas more accessible to local tourists.

The Authority – Future Sights & Destinations

The young Barbers has called his Deputy-General Manager for Infrastructure Engr. Jose Dion D. Diaz to lay before him development plans for the Agency aside from the existing sites:

l Tourist facilities in the formed Black Island in Palawan.

l Develop a Boracay-like strip of beach in Guiwan, Samar.

l Establish a surfing capital in Siargao Island, (Surigao del Norte).

l Feasible study on the famous Lake Lanao in Marawi City.

l To build tourist cottages in the EcoMalasag Garden Resort in Cagayan de Oro, as well as to develop the white-river rafting in this Mindanao province.

Barbers has also tasked Engr. Diaz to go up north to study and to development sites in Cagayan Valley and Ilocos; particularly in the powder-white beaches of Pagudpud and Currimao, and the quaint mountain town of Sagada in Bontoc, Cordillera.

But, the big question they asked: How I am going to do all these despite the Philippines having one of the lowest tourism budgets in the world? Barbers’ automatic response: "Cash!…. we prefer cash". The answer in which the young Barbers has gotten accustomed to whenever asked. Local officials must be convinced to build and cooperate tourist facilities in their towns, as they will be the ones operating and profiting from the influx of tourists in their areas.

Synopses of Attractive Destinations in The Offing

Pagudpud (Northernmost Part of the Philippines, Not Aparri) lies on Bangui, about 70 km north of Laoag. The beautiful white sand beach is heavenly magnificent in the town proper. Pagudpud is probably the best and most attractive sight in the Philippines, especially passing the cliffhangers – the highway that takes you to the northernmost peak. If you look at a Philippine map, the lick at the northern most tip is Pagudpud. When you reached it, it will be proper to say: From Pagudpud to Tawi-Tawi (for Pagudpud is the northernmost part of the Philippines and Tawi-Tawi, the tail end of the country).

Pagudpud is so-called because land travelers when they reach it, find themselves "pagud na pagud na" (in the vernacular) or "very tired". Reaching the highest tip of Pagudpud is reaching the boundary of Aparri, Cagayan. On this site, you have reached the tail-end of Ilocos Norte. One thing about Pagudpud, because it is a seldom-reached destination, even fishes in the ocean are friendly. Try to go scuba-diving, don’t be surprised if the fishes start kissing you! — perhaps as a sign of welcome.

[ Lake Danao Wiki ]

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