How we lost to CamSur

(First part of a series.  Based solely on my humble and maybe uninformed opinion)

CamSur recently beat Cebu as the top tourist destination in the country.  Why not?  With a strong, united tourism group with fresh ideas for a virginal destination, CamSur sure will be busy attending to tourists for years to come.

Many in the city’s hospitality and tourism industry, including government officials were surprised and disappointed.  My opinion is that we have been laying on our laurels for far too long. Besides, what has the local government ever done that ensures long term success?

CamSur has risen from being the 39th poorest region in the country to being number 10 in 2009, owing to income from the tourism trade.  And from being number 3 to the top tourist destination in the Philippines.  The key was a strong determination to rise from poverty, a young, dynamic governor (Luis Villafuerte, 41 years old) and a united team of dedicated locals.  From changing its very provincial name to something really hip – CamSur to attracting Survivor France and Israel and then openning call centers (yes, I am sure I have colleagues who were able to interact with some of them) and foreign language schools, this province has gone a long way in just a short time.  It now hosts international sporting events flocked by tourists from around the world.

What about Cebu?  It cannot be denied that tourism is a strong contributor to Cebu’s economy and yet, many of the projects supporting it are financed by private investors. In my humble opinion, the problem lies in poor management of our local funds and the seemingly endless political bickering of Osmena and Garcia.   Our then Mayor, who is now Congressman Tommy Osmena, spends a good deal of time quarelling the provincial governor Gwen Garcia.  Any extra time is then spent pushing for projects that serve his personal interest(what else is new?) OR nursing his bloated ego. 

Don’t get me wrong, I WAS a fan.  I could remember Ceboom! back in the early 90’s, when Tommy led Cebu to rise from the heap that was Ruping.  However, in recent years, it would seem as if Rep Osmena has other more important matters to attend to. 

Here are some of the most basic concerns that our local government have overlooked.  I believe we need to address these if we are to bring back our tourism flare.

1.  I have been living in the downtown area of Cebu for 6 years now and I cannot deny the fact that garbage is everywhere.  The collection system is inefficient, now you see them, now you don’t.  Well at least in my part of town.  I came home at 12AM from a movie date and the garbage bag we put out for the 9PM truck was still out there.  This morning, I found a metro aide sweeping it up.  Whatever happened to the garbage truck? 

Our streams and rivers, criscrossing the city in many spots, are all dead and smelly.  When it rains, most of these overflow.  Colon is filthy, with dust, smog and all the trash.  

2.  When it rains, everybody can very well tell which parts of the city to avoid.  By now, most locals know which areas are prone to flooding due to clogged canals.  I remembered the intersection in Sanciangko and Junquera from my college years in USC, the gutters overflow when it rains, we are talking 1996 here and up until now, it’s almost 2011, the same problem still exists.  This is the same story for some parts of Basak, Pardo, Bonifacio Street, AS Fortuna(Mandaue jurisdiction) among others.  Why have we not addressed these all this time?

3.  Cebu is rich in culture and heritage sites.  What have we ever done to preserve these?  Kudos to Gov. Gwen Garcia for taking measures to protect and develop those in the provincial areas.  The provincial government even has a TV channel featuring these tourist spots and occassional historical documentaries by local narrators.  I enjoy them thouroughly. 

IN the city, it’s a different story altogether.  AGain, many of these sites which are located within the city are either maintained and financed by private groups.  The city clearly is not paying close attention to an aspect in its heritage that cleary is a strong tourism pull.  There are cities that spend tons of money to preserve if not acquire items of cultural and historic value.  We on the other hand , are leaving most of them to rot.  Take for instance the works of Dante Guidetti, like The Vision Theater, it is now left at the mercy of DVD merchants, raping its beautiful architecture from the inside.  I fear the day when it will totally lose even the beauty of its facade.  Guidetti was also responsible for the beautiful Osmena Mausoleum in San Miguel, which is being left at the mercy of squatters around the area.  Clearly, REp Osmena does not consider even his family’s heritage important.

(to be continued…)

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