CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The local government of Misamis Oriental will pour in millions of pesos to develop new tourism sites and to upgrade existing ones as the province is gearing up to host the 36th annual Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (Atop) next month.

According to lawyer Jeffrey Saclot, the provincial tourism officer, his office has proposed at least P159 million for the infrastructure projects of tourism destinations in Misamis Oriental that will possibly be included in next year’s provincial government budget.

This year, the provincial government has already released millions of pesos for the upkeep of existing tourist destinations, Saclot said.

Tourism is the priority program of Gov. Yevgeny Vincente Emano whose aim is not just to develop and promote the province’s tourist spots but also for the communities living within the sites to be empowered through tourism.

Among the sites that will be further developed is the Sagpulon Falls in Jasaan town, which will need P10 million for construction of open and close cottages and for other amenities.

Aside from the local government fund, the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza) has also set aside P10 million for the trail going to Sagpulon Falls and will be releasing the amount soon once the paperwork is concluded, Saclot said.

Another P10 million for the jump-off point and boardwalk going to the Agutayan reef, also in Jasaan, was already earmarked.

The upgrading of the Alibuag Cold Spring in Medina town, he said, will be made possible with the P10 million funding, while the provincial government has pledged P3 million for the construction of additional cottages in Alibuag Beach Resort in the municipality of Sugbongcogon.

Although Saclot did not mention an allocation for the Lagbas ancestral house in Sugbongcogon, he said the provincial tourism office is working for this tourist destination to be declared as a national cultural heritage site by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

The Our Lady of Lourdes shrine in Binunangan town, he said, was included in the development efforts, with the area being considered as one of the religious tourism sites in the province. The province will be building a swimming pool near the shrine worth P5 million.

Two mountain resorts in Naawan town, the Bolyok Spring and the Mahangob Falls, will be developed using the P10 million fund already allocated for these sites.

The famous “bibingka” (rice cake) of the municipality of Manticao, meanwhile, will be further promoted through packaging and marketing, he said.

“We’ve recommended the [Gov. Emano] to put up a ‘pasalubong center’ in the province and he is very positive about this,” Saclot said, adding that Steag, a power-generating company, is set to donate P10 million for the project.

Saclot said the “pasalubong center” (souvenir shop) will be located either in Alubijid or Laguindingan and will serve as a final stop for local and foreign tourists before going to the airport in Laguindingan.

“At the ‘pasalubong center’ we will not just be selling ‘bibingka’ but all the products and delicacies of the province,” he added.

Saclot said they would also be helping the barangay and municipal governments of Laguindingan to expand the Tubajon Aquamarine Park, which recently won in a nationwide competition for the cleanest coastline.

“We want to preserve the ecotourism setup there (Tubajon), that means no concrete structures, just bamboo and other native materials, and we are planning on expanding the mangrove plantation,” he said.

In fact, he said, the park was chosen as one of the destinations of the delegates of the Atop convention in October, with participants coming from all cover the country.(

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