Sunday, August 2, 2009


INTRAMUROS, the old capital of Manila, was built in 1571. It remains a monumental, if ruined, relic of the Spanish period in Philippine history. It is a city within a city, separated from the rest of Manila by its crumbling walls. This ancient capital had well-planned streets, plazas, the Governor’s Palace and churches. However, many buildings were reduced to shambles in World War II.

Among the places to visit in Intramuros are the two churches – The Manila Cathedral and St. Augustine Church — and Fort Santiago.

The Manila Cathedral is the fifth stone church of Manila. It was destroyed and rebuilt several times. From the air, it appears as a giant cross.

St. Augustine Church is the oldest stone church in the Philippines. It was built in 1599; however, it was also destroyed and rebuilt many times. It is an immense structure of thick walls of Corinthian and Ionic designs.

Fort Santiago used to be the seat of the colonial powers of both Spain and the U.S. It was also a dreaded prison under the Spanish regime and the scene of countless military police atrocities during the Japanes occupation. Here, too, Dr. Jose Rizal spent his last hours before his execution on Bagumbayan. (now Rizal Park).


Travel and airline executives met in this city over the weekend to develop and promote the sub-regional group of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines – East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) as one tourist destination.

“We have to brand it as one destination,” said Wee Hong Seng, president of the Sarawak Tourism Federation.BIMP-EAGA is a sub-regional group of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) formed in 1994 to help develop the economic well-being of the member countries through various tourism and trade exchanges and programs.

In particular, these areas include Brunei ; Central Kalimantan, Sulawesi provinces, Maluku, and Papua in Indonesia ; Sabah and Sarawak states and the Federal Territory of Labuan in Malaysia ; and Mindanao and Palawan in the Philippines.

“We should not be competing against each other. We should be complementing,” Seng said during the Davao Travel Show at the SM City in Davao attended by Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano.Ang Kian Guan, BIMP-EAGA chairman for transport, infrastructure and information technology, said airline executives were joining the meeting to discuss the possibility of adding more intra-regional flights.

At present, there are only five airlines connecting the major cities of EAGA. These are Royal Brunei Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Asian Spirit, Batavia Air and Merpati Airlines.

In the Philippines , the only carrier flying from Davao City to other parts of EAGA is Merpati Airlines with flies to Manadao in Indonesia . Asian Spirit flies from Zamboanga to Sandakan in Malaysia.

Other major cities in the EAGA sub-region are Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei , Kota Kinabalu and Kuching in Malaysia , Puerto Princesa ( Philippines ) and Pontianak in Indonesia.There are now plans to add new routes, including Davao-Bandar Seri Begawan by Pearl Pacific Airways, Puerto Princesa-Kota Ki-nabalu by Southeast Asian Airlines and Davao-Kota Kinabalu by Cebu Pacific Air.

Other proposed routes are Kuching-Bandar Seri Begawan-Kota Kinabalu by Air Asia and Pontianak -Kuching- Bandar Seri Begawan by Batavia Air.

Durano earlier said the Philippines expects to strengthen its relations with other countries, help establish business linkages among the private sector participants, as well as exchange information on the latest developments in tourism.The DOT promotes the pristine beaches, natural wonders and colorful culture of Mindanao and Palawan as a part of the BIMP-EAGA sub-region.

Seven-hectare resort to rise in SamalDAVAO City – The Bangayan Group of Companies is building a nine-hectare resort-residential complex on Samal Island that is expected to drive tourism activities in Davao region.

Durano earlier said the Philippines expects to strengthen its relations with other countries, help establish business linkages among the private sector participants, as well as exchange information on the latest developments in tourism.The DOT promotes the pristine beaches, natural wonders and colorful culture of Mindanao and Palawan as a part of the BIMP-EAGA sub-region.

Seven-hectare resort to rise in SamalDAVAO City – The Bangayan Group of Companies is building a nine-hectare resort-residential complex on Samal Island that is expected to drive tourism activities in Davao region.

Davao is being promoted as an achor destination of the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Growth Area.Nearly 600,000 foreign and domestic tourists went to Davao region in the first nine months of 2007. Davao region groups the provinces of Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Island of Samal and Davao City.

Art Boncato Jr., director of sales and marketing of Marco Polo hotel in Davao, confirmed that both foreign and local tourists have been flocking to Mindanao in recent years.He said occupancy rate at Marco Polo reached a record high of more than 70 percent in 2007, and signs are looking better this year.

Despite the new projects rising in Davao, Boncato said Marco Polo will remain the most luxurious accommodation facilities in the city.

The growth of tourism in Davao city has also triggered investments and projects in other areas of Davao such as Tagum.
Tagum City Mayor Rey Uy said tourism has been inducing economic growth in his city. Tagum is being promoted as the festival city of Mindanao.

Eagle losses habitat to miningDAVAO City – The Philippine eagle, which serves as the symbol of conservation efforts in the country, has been losing its natural habitat to mining, which is rapidly encroaching into the forests of Mindanao.
Once described as the “world’s noblest flyer” by aviator Charles Lindbergh, the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is now rarely spotted at the country’s remaining virgin forests and is mostly concentrated at the captive breeding grounds of the Philippine Eagle Center, which recently received a P5-million financing from the Department of Tourism for its new entrance lounge.
Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano visited the center over the weekend to inspect the new entance lounge in place of the old dilapidated structure. His department released the amount to improve the entrance lounge of the center, which in 2007, received more than 100,000 foreign and Filipino guests.
The eight-hectare Philippine Eagle Center, which is being run by the non-profit group Philippine Eagle Foundation in Malagos, Baguio District in this city, has emerged as one of the prime tourist destinations in Mindanao .Elsa Delima, manager of the center-based education, said that only 500 pairs of the world’s largest eagle in terms of wingspan live in the wild of Luzon, Samar and Leyte, and Mindanao . The Philippine eagle has an average wingspan of two meters, the broadest among eagles in the world.

The number of eagles in the wild, she said, was only an estimate and was based on the nesting sites found in the forests.
What is clear, she said, is that there are only 500,000 hectares of old-growth or virgin forests remaining in the country, and this area is being threatened by human activities such as mining.The Philippine eagles were mostly sighted in virgin forests of Luzon, Samar and Leyte and Mindanao . The fact that Philippine eagle is endemic to the Philippines proves that the archipelago is not connected to the islands of Indonesia and Malaysia .

However, millions of hectares of forest areas from Cordillera and Sierra Madre to Bicol to Samar and Leyte down to Caraga and Davao region are now the subject of mining exploration applications. These are the areas where Philippine eagles were spotted in the past.
About 383 mining tenements have been approved and registered, while 1,846 other mining tenements were being processed as of January 2008, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

A mining project, including exploration, normally covers an area of 1,000 hectares to as large as 100,000 hectares, mostly in forests.

Domingo Tadena, deputy director for captive-breeding in the center, said the giant raptor is endemic to the Philippines and is sensitive to its environment. The species is known to be solitary and fiercely territorial.

The eagle center currently takes care of 36 Philippine eagles. The center has bred 22 eagles since January 1992, when Pagasa was hatched in captivity.

Tadena said the center plans to release an eagle named Kagsabua (which means hope in Higaonon), in Mount Kitanglad to reintroduce it to the wild on March 6. Kagsabua was rescued from the same forest in Bukidnon with a bullet wound in September 2006, which suggests that the eagles are still being targeted by poachers despite government protection.

Durano earlier advised local government units to disallow mining activities in areas being developed for tourism. “Tourism and mining do not mix together,” he said.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), however, claimed that it has recently added four new entries to its list of protected areas.From 103 in 2006, there are now 107 proclaimed protected areas under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS), covering a total of 3.34 million hectares.

Protected areas are identified portions of land and water set aside by reasons of their unique physical and biological significance.

These include national parks, natural parks, marine parks, marine reserves, game refuge and bird sanctuaries, wilderness areas, watershed forest reserves, mangrove swamps, protected landscapes/seascapes, natural monuments/landmarks, resource reserve, wildlife sanctuary, and natural biotic areas.

The four new protected areas cover a total of 19,829.13 hectares. These are the Mt. Balatukan Range Natural Park in Misamis Oriental, Mt. Inayawan Natural Park in Lanao del Norte, Kalbario-Patapat Natural Park in Ilocos Norte and Mt. Palay-Palay Mataas na Gulod Protected Landscape in Cavite.

Other eagles that are considered among the largest in the world are Harpy Eagle and Crested Eagles of the Americas and the New Guinea Harpy Eagle.


Manila Ocean Park, the PhPhP1-billion marine park constructed by Singaporean and Malaysian investors at the back of Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park, opened on 29th February 2008.

“The park is set to be the city’s major tourist destination. It is expected to draw millions of visitors on its first year, offering a unique tourist experience beyond the usual shopping activities,” said park developer, China Oceanis Philippines, Inc., a joint venture between Singaporean and Malaysian investors.Tourism executives and local officials of Manila hailed the country’s newest tourist destination as something that will reinvent Rizal Park and reinvigorate tourism in the capital.

Manila Ocean Park president Lim Chee Yong said several developments are already happening around Luneta with the completion of the first phase of Manila Ocean Park .Lim said Manila Ocean Park will showcase the rich marine resources of the Philippines , which along with Malaysia , Indonesia and the Pacific Islands form the Coral Triangle, considered as the world’s center of marine biodiversity.

The Coral Triangle is home to 75 percent of all known coral species and more than 3,000 species of reef and pelagic fish.

The marine park’s oceanarium features 20,000 exotic and colorful fishes, most of which are endemic to the Philippines.The opening of the marin park has been deferred from December 2007 to February 2008, because of a minor fire last year, which caused the construction delays.

Completed was the first phase of the project, which include the main facility and oceanarium, a magnificent glass and steel structure featuring a 25-meter long, 220-degree curved acrylic walkway tunnel, where guests can view the country’s different marine species.

Set for completion later in the year are the open water marine habitats, a shopping mall, restaurant row, hotel, and multi-purpose function facilities.

When completed, the whole project will be the first of its kind in Asia Pacific, according to the marine park’s management.The management of the Manila Ocean Park has partnered with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to spread awareness for Philippine marine environment.

WWF-Philippine vice chairman Lory Tan said the conservation group partnered with Manila Ocean Park after the company committed not to display endangered species, except for captive-bred, and to strive for best practice in collection of marine animals.

Dave Valdes, president of WWF-Philippines, said his organization will use its partnership with Manila Ocean Park to educate students and train the staff of the company in the area of conservation.

The Manila Ocean Park will help clean the water of Manila Bay , because it will draw water directly from the bay, which will undergo an advance filtration system.

Some 12,000 cubic meters of water from the Manila Bay will be pumped into the oceanarium, five other display tanks, and open water marine habitats daily.

Aside from the aquatic display, park visitors can enjoy a glass-bottomed boat ride, the 20-foot acrylic underwater tunnel, and the activity center.