LGUs vs tourism
I think it’s time we focused on something we have rarely done: look at the local government units (LGUs). When I talk to business people, one of the biggest complaints is the difficulties LGUs cause.
I don’t wish to generalize, but well-run LGUs appear to be the exception, and this causes me concern about going federal (the other concern is cost). Few mayors, or governors, if it comes to that, have the management skills and experience to be able to run an administration efficiently — and honestly (petty graft to get permits approved is rampant). There are too many delays and frustrations businesses suffer that are caused by LGUs.
Much of it is ineptitude, with too few staff with the experience needed. For one, permits that need to be renewed every year, but can take months to renew. This raises the question—why? Nothing has changed within that year, so renewal, if at all, should be automatic. If money is needed, then just send in a check at the end of the year. If the organization does change, report it at the time.
Basic services are poor or even nonexistent. In Siargao, where I was recently, the government ordered all establishments to buy three rubbish bins and segregate the waste. A contractor collects all the rubbish in one truck so the consolidated mess is dumped into an unregulated landfill.
On sewerage, I couldn’t get statistics. but I have little doubt there are very, very few towns with a full, centralized sewerage system connected to every establishment and household. Again, in Siargao, responsible organizations have put in place their own four-tank system, but homes and small businesses never do. One shudders to wonder where their excrement goes.
Tap water is too often undrinkable. In Siargao, organizations have had to drill their own deep well—and the LGU charges them for it.
Still in Siargao, they are building a huge stadium, which is nice as sports need such a thing. But there is no fully equipped and manned hospital, in a beach destination where surfing and motorcycle accidents are frequent. It would seem basketball is more important than life. In too many places, the city or municipal hall is the most grandiose building. My dad had a heart attack on the beach in Boracay. He died. There was no hospital. That was many years ago; now there is one public hospital.
Siargao is a beautiful spot. It started off as a must-go destination for surfers and backpackers. Today, it is rapidly developing as a competition to Boracay in its beauty and attractions. But it faces the same risks as Boracay: overcrowding and pollution, with a local government not implementing the necessary controls and providing the needed service for now, let alone the future.
Controlling the first is easy — decide on the maximum number of tourists that can be comfortably handled, and allow only the requisite number of rooms. Then provide potable water, full sewerage and environmentally friendly waste disposal systems. The roads are mostly good concrete, two lanes, although there are some that are still dirt. But they can follow after a hospital is built.
Having got all that off my chest, Siargao is a wonderful place to visit. Island-hopping is delightful and extremely well-organized on large bancas that go from one beautiful spot to the next. There’s lunch of fresh grilled seafood eaten under the coconut trees and accompanied by a cold San Mig on the side.
Restaurants are of international standard, something I certainly didn’t expect, with a range of cuisines that they somehow manage to provide despite the logistical difficulties of getting fresh foods in. This is the result of foreign chefs falling in love and staying.
Siargao started as a backpackers’ dream, a great place to surf. It is turning into a getaway for the better-off. That’s what’s needed nationally. We don’t want backpackers crowding and spoiling locations and spending little. The statistic we always see is the number of tourist arrivals, but this focus is all wrong. It should be the revenue from tourists.
In 2017, there were about 6.6 million of them. They spent an estimated average of P50,100 each. That’s too little if we want the wealthy to come here. What tourism has to fight is the idea that unrestricted growth is good; it’s not. Every locale can only handle a certain number without upsetting the environment. Man has already done enough destruction of that.
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