CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – What was remembered as a place of death and tragedy in a mountainous area in Misamis Oriental will now become a thriving tourist destination after the provincial government converted a parcel of land near the Cebu Pacific Flight 5J387 crash site into a tourism complex and botanical garden.
The tourist destination, inaugurated on February 2, is situated a few kilometers from the crash site on the slopes of the Mt. Sumagaya mountain range that borders Gingoog City and Claveria town.
The accident is considered as the one of the worst air disasters in the Philippines.
The Cebu Pacific airplane, a McDonell Douglas DC-9-32, bound for Cagayan de Oro from Manila, crashed into the mountain killing all the 99 passengers and five flight crew on Feb. 2, 1998.
A 20-foot memorial shrine, dedicated to those who perished in the tragic event and erected about 20 years ago through the help of the then Sen. Robert Jaworski during the term of former Governor Antonio Calingin, is located within the complex.
Based on the blueprint, the site will have coffee shops, fruit stands, camping areas, flower gardens, and other amenities to help promote food tourism, and historical and cultural tourism in the province.
With the completion of the complex’s first phase, lawyer Jeffrey Saclot, provincial tourism officer, said they expect more tourists to visit Misamis Oriental, although he assured that the health protocol set by the national government will be strictly implemented as its preventive measure to ward off spread of the coronavirus infection.
He said the tourist destination “aims to encourage people to have a wider array of options when visiting the area by boasting amenities and attractions previously known to be available only from neighboring provinces.”
Saclot added that the expansion of the complex is still in the pipeline.
In his message during the tourism site’s inauguration in time for the Flight 387’s 23rd anniversary on Tuesday, Gov. Yevgeny Vincente Emano said the project is a “milestone that will cement Misamis Oriental into the tourism map of the Philippines.”
The complex, Emano said, “will also present new opportunities for livelihood for many Misamisnons due to the expected influx of tourists.”
Due to the area’s cold weather, the governor said the stretch of land located along Highway 955 between Gingoog and Claveria might as well become the summer capital of Misamis Oriental, if not the whole of Mindanao.
Since the highway was opened a few years ago, it has served as diversion road that cuts short travel time from western Misamis Oriental to the province’s eastern towns and vice versa.
Establishments such as restaurants, coffee shops, and other places of interest have also opened near or beside Highway 955.
Jurisdiction of the tourism complex, however, is still being contested by the local governments of Gingoog and Claveria, with both parties awaiting court decision.
As a compromise, Gingoog Mayor Erick Cañosa and Claveria Mayor Meraluna Abrogar signed a memorandum of understanding consenting to Emano’s proposal that 40 percent of the complex’s earnings will go the provincial government, and the 60 percent will be split in half by Claveria and Gingoog.
Once the court rules on which local government unit is the rightful claimant of the contested land, the winning party will get the 60 percent share, while the province will still receive its 40 percent, Emano said.
The complex, Emano said, was constructed using funds from the Energy Regulation (ER) 1-94, or the share of the local government in the electricity sales of power-generating companies operating in the province, with a budget of P16 million in 2019.
Part of that fund came from German power producer Steag State Power Inc., which turned over P3.54 million to the provincial government as part of Misamis Oriental’s ER 1-94 share.
At the turnover of the P3.54 million check on Dec. 23, 2019, Emano said he will show to the Steag management “that the money that you entrusted to the provincial government will never go to waste. We will implement it properly.”
Emano also unveiled the project plan to the public during the ceremony.
For Fe Vallejos, 71, visiting the shrine was one of the way of coping with the loss of her son Omar Kim, one of the plane passengers who perished in the crash.
Vallejos said Omar Kim was then a village council member of Barangay 2, Balingasag town, Misamis Oriental at the time of his death. She said Omar Kim was the second eldest among six siblings and would have been 47 years old by now.
“He just went to Manila to attend to some personal matters. We didn’t expect that he would die so suddenly and so young,” Vallejos said.
Although it was painful at first, she said she has learned to accept her son’s death over time. (davaotoday.com)Cebu Pacific Flight 5J387, Memorial Shrine, Mindanao, Misamis Oriental, tourism