A tourism industry forum will be held February 19 in Dumaguete City to finalize the tourism roadmap of Negros Oriental that spell out the priorities and identify projects to be undertaken to lure in more foreign and domestic tourists to the province.

Francel Martinez, executive director of the Negros Oriental Investment Promotion Center and a member of the Negros Oriental Business and Development Foundation, said there are plans to further develop the Apo Island, the twin lakes of Balinsasayao and Danao in Sibulan, the Casaroro falls, the Manjuyod white sand bar, and the Mabinay caves, among others.

Around P2.1 billion is needed to construct and repair roads leading to tourist destinations, and to erect decent amenities and facilities that the private sector can help with, as well as restaurants, a beach resort, and pension houses, he added.

There were suggestions that gasoline stations spread all over the province should also provide clean and decent comfort rooms, even for a fee.

The Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry, headed by Ed Du, has assured the provincial government of their support to the tourism roadmap. “Our mandate is to help investors, Filipinos or foreigners, to succeed in their endeavors for government to generate taxes, and to provide for employment,” he said.

When the roadmap is finalized, we expect that government agencies, like the departments of Public Works and Highways, Tourism, Trade and Industry, and Science and Technology, will channel the funding requirements to Negros Oriental, Du also said.

He said the private sector has limited opportunities for investments in protected areas like the Apo Island and the twin lakes due to stricter rules and regulations imposed by the Protected Area Management Board.

Gov. Roel Degamo said he wants to pursue health tourism in Negros Oriental, and is bent on acquiring an oxygen plant for the Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital, and a re-compressor chamber for scuba divers.

He said he intends to avail of another loan package, of P50 million, to acquire these equipment as the hospital caters not only to Negrenses, but patients from southern Cebu, Kabankalan City in Negros Occidental, Siquijor, and other neighboring provinces.*JG