TOURIST IN­FLUX CATCHES BATAN­GAS TOWN OFF GUARD

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - REGIONS - By Maricar Cinco @mari­carcin­coINQ

TIN­GLOY, BATAN­GAS— This town, the only is­land mu­nic­i­pal­ity in Batan­gas prov­ince, is draw­ing thou­sands of tourists be­cause of its long white beaches and the cheap trans­porta­tion and ac­com­mo­da­tion costs.

But lo­cal of­fi­cials ad­mit­ted they were not pre­pared for the sud­den in­flux of vis­i­tors, as they scram­ble to make the is­land, at the very least, tourist-friendly.

“We were ex­pect­ing tourists to come, es­pe­cially with the clo­sure of Bo­ra­cay [Is­land in Ak­lan prov­ince], but we didn’t ex­pect that much,” said Mayor Mark Lau­rence Al­varez.

“Wewere ac­tu­ally sur­prised. [Tourism] was not part of the [lo­cal gov­ern­ment] plan, oth­er­wise we would have pre­pared for it. It’s just that all of a sud­den, it’s here,” said Her­bert Du­maoal, mu­nic­i­pal tourism chief.

Blogs, so­cial me­dia

About 45 min­utes by boat (fare is P85) off the main­land in Mabini town, Tin­gloy is a sec­ond class ( an­nual av­er­age in­come: P45 mil­lion or more but less than P55 mil­lion) fish­ing town with a pop­u­la­tion of 19,000.

In­land travel is com­monly by tri­cy­cle, with power sup­ply avail­able only from noon to mid­night. There are no ho­tels on the is­land but about 400 “home­s­tays,” or tran­sient houses of­fer­ing an overnight stay for P300 to P700. Tourists of­ten camp out on beaches or travel back to Mabini where more ho­tels and re­sorts op­er­ate.

Du­maoal said the lo­cal gov­ern­ment was not ag­gres­sively pro­mot­ing Tin­gloy but peo­ple some­how dis­cov­ered the town through blogs and so­cial me­dia posts about the is­land ex­pe­ri­ence.

From the monthly av­er­age of 5,000 week­end vis­i­tors in 2017, tourist ar­rival jumped to around 36,000 in March alone.

“It’s re­ally big. There were about 16,000 [tourists] in just four days dur­ing the Len­ten week,” said the 23-year-old Al­varez, who is serv­ing his first term as mayor of Tin­gloy.

Reg­u­lat­ing tourists

Pho­tos of the garbage-lit­tered Masasa beach, Tin­gloy’s pop­u­lar white sand area, cir­cu­lated on­line af­ter the Len­ten hol­i­day.

Tourists left about a ton of garbage, prompt­ing the lo­cal gov­ern­ment to mo­bi­lize home­own­ers, boat­men and even tri­cy­cle driv­ers to help clean up the beach.

“More tourists mean more garbage. Look at Bo­ra­cay,” Du­maoal said, re­fer­ring to the pop­u­lar tourist spot in Ak­lan that the gov­ern­ment re­cently closed down due to the is­land’s degra­da­tion.

Al­varez said the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources had al­lowed them to use an old dump while the town looked for funds to build a san­i­tary land­fill.

Trans­porta­tion in and out of Tin­gloy is also lim­ited to only 28 boats (each with a ca­pac­ity of 80 pas­sen­gers) trav­el­ing from Mabini.

Dur­ing the Holy Week, thou­sands were stranded at the ports of Ani­lao and Ta­laga in Mabini wait­ing to catch a ride to the is­land.

“To be hon­est, we’re con­sid­er­ing reg­u­lat­ing [the num­ber of] tourists,” Du­maoal said.

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