Saturday, September 17, 2011

“Costa Pacifica” world class hotel started to rise in Aurora

BALER, Aurora, September 18, 2011-To cater to the ever-growing tourism industry in the province, a three story world-class resort hotel named “Costa Pacifica” started its construction now with seventy eight (78) rooms at a three hectare site at Barangay Sabang which is the favorite surfing destination of local and foreign tourists.

Senator Edgardo J. Angara said that the modernize hotel will charge the cheapest rate among the hotels here in the country and is now being built by the internationally acclaimed Raintree Company which is known builders of several high-end hotels and manager of the Discovery Suites in Ortigas and Boracay, restaurants, food courts and food parks along Ayala Avenue.

Annabella Wisniewski, Raintree president briefed Angara about the project Friday afternoon together with Raeana Cranbourne, who is the firm’s project director, a half-Filipina and half-Australian.

Wisniewski said that the hotel will have a restaurant and cafeteria where meetings, conferences and socials can be held. It will be completed in December 2012, with a soft opening a month earlier.

“This type of hotel is appropriate for Filipino hospitality. It’s a terrific industry because Filipinos are naturally hospitable. The project will also give many attributes to tourism industry,” Wisniewski told newsmen.

She said that a prominent architect Ed Calma designed the hotel which construction has already generated 150 local jobs.

Wisniewski said that their firm decided to build a world-class hotel in this capital town to cash in on the booming tourism industry and to spur countryside development. “Besides, we want to showcase the beauty of Baler as a premier tourist destination and tourism can generate a lot of revenues,” she said.        

“The hotel facility they are putting up in the province is very accessible from Manila and is located in the only beach area surrounded by the land-locked provinces of Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya,” Wisniewski said, adding that her firm is also taking care of the renovation of the adjacent Bahia 1 and Bahia 2 hotels which have a total of 33 rooms.

Angara said that his sister Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo is working on having the area near the chain of hotels into a tourism enterprise zone, the tourism equivalent of a special economic zone with tax incentives for locators.

As a tourism enterprise zone, it will get state funding from the Tourism Industry and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) which will construct building, access road, water systems and related facilities.

The establishment of the hotel is expected to further increase tourist arrivals in the province which registered a 300 percent jump over the last five years.

Provincial Tourism Office (PTO) records showed that visitor arrivals in the province reached a record-high of 68,395 in 2010 from a measly 11,534 in 2006. The province lured 10,778 tourists in 2007, 27,935 in 2008 and 52,316 in 2009.

In recognition of the feat, PTO chief Michael Palispis was adjudged provincial tourism officer for 2010 by the Department of Tourism.

Back to Wisniewski, she has been in the hotel and restaurant business for the past 40 years. She was the first Filipina graduate in hotel and restaurant management at Cornell University and has worked in major hotel firms abroad such as Hilton Hotel and Marriot Hotel in Honolulu, Washington hotel, New York hotel and in Singapore.

Wisniewski decided to return in the country to contribute towards the development of hotel and restaurant nationwide. She said that the project will generate income, opportunities and employments among the villagers of Aurora. (Jason de Asis)

P332.5M Aurora ecozone budget approval in congress

CASIGURAN, Aurora, September 18, 2011-In the midst of protests from its oppositionists and after massive cuts made by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the House of Representatives approved last Wednesday the proposed P332.5-million 2012 budget for the Aurora economic zone wherein the budget is a far cry from the ecozone officials’ submitted budget proposal to the DBM of P3.565 billion.

“The 2012 is only less than 10 percent of the ecozone’s submitted budget proposal for the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO),” ecozone officials said.

APECO President Robbie Mathay revealed that the budget proposal was approved in the plenary along with other attached agencies of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), saying that of the P332.5 million, P55 million has been appropriated for personnel services and P277.5 million for capital outlay, including building construction, land acquisition among others.

Prior to the budget approval, Congressman Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said that a pre-plenary conference was held last September 5 wherein Anakpawis Party-list Representative Rafael Mariano addressed some questions to APECO officials, including the alleged massive displacement of landowners, farmers and fisherfolks.

Mathay gave an assurance that no massive displacement would take place and that the ecozone will inform everybody of the project impact.

Last June 21, 2011, DBM Secretary Florencio Abad stated in his letter to Mathay that they were recommending P332.5 million after a review of the proposed project. “The DBM recommended budget was arrived at applying the zero-base budgeting approach whereby major on-going programs and projects were assessed and reviewed as to relevance, and after assessing APECO’S demonstrated absorptive capacity,” Abad said.

Congressman Angara and Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo admitted that the budget cuts would slow down the pace of construction works inside the ecozone. 

The approval of the project budget also followed intense lobbying by known anti-APECO groups among them the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) which warned that such approval may lead to the wholesale destruction in this town where the project is located and nearby towns in Aurora province.

The groups complaining about massive displacement of farmers and fishermen, land-grabbing and harassment of local folks were Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap and vice chairperson for Luzon Salvador France who earlier submitted a position paper to the 125-member House committee on appropriations chaired by Congressman Emilio Abaya. The clergy of the prelature of infanta also opposed the ecozone project. (Jason de Asis)

Tourist arrivals in Aurora heats up

BALER, Aurora, September 18, 2011-Tourist arrivals in this province continue to heat up as provincial tourism office (PTO) records showed that tourist arrivals in the first semester of this year already surpassed the whole year tourist arrivals last year.

Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo said that tourism industry continues to boom in this province explaining that the number of tourists for the first six (6) months of 2011 already reached 73,689, way above the 68,395 tourists registered in 2010.

Angara-Castillo said that the growth of the local industry is remarkable and the tourism figures are considered phenomenal since the province does not have yet the requisite hotel and infrastructure facilities which are natural come-ons for tourists.

Over the last five years, Michael Palispis, provincial tourism officer chief said that the tourism gains of the province will further improve the 300 percent tourist arrivals in the province.

Visitor arrivals in the province reached a record-high of 68,395 last year from a measly 8,774 last 2005 based on the PTO records, stating that the province lured 11,534 tourists in 2006; 10,778 in 2007; 27,935 in 2008 and 52,316 in 2009. In recognition of the feat, the Department of Tourism (DOT) adjudged Palispis as provincial tourism officer for 2010.

“The tremendous arrivals of visitors recorded in the province were even a conservative estimate since this did not include those who checked in “home-stay” facilities, adding that the two of the major hotel facilities in this capital town are always fully booked because of the on-rush of in-bound visitors,” Palispis said.

Angara-Castillo said that the provincial government is aggressively promoting tourism with the crafting of an Aurora Forest Recreation and Rest Area, Park Development (AFRRAPD), a provincial tourism blueprint which it submitted to the Department of Tourism for inclusion in the National Tourism Master Plan.

Included in the AFRRAPD are the construction of a hotel, conference hall and recreational facilities for water sports activities such as wakeboarding, jet skiing, kayaking, rappelling, and mountain trail.

Angara-Castillo said that the tourism blueprint is one of her development priority agenda where they also launched its own “Balik-Aurora” campaign where “balikbayan” tourists are fetched at the airport and brought to various destinations in the province in line with the declaration of the years 2011 to 2016 as the country’s “Homecoming Years for Pinoys” in accordance to Aquino’s proclamation 181 to boost tourism by attracting “balikbayans”. (Jason de Asis)


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