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Philippines’ Tourism Champions Challenge sees significant boost

President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. leads the awarding the awarding ceremony of the Department of Tourism’s flagship program, Tourism Champions Challenge (TCC).
President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. leads the awarding the awarding ceremony of the Department of Tourism’s flagship program, Tourism Champions Challenge (TCC).

President Marcos Jr. celebrates the Tourism Champions Challenge’s success, which has significantly engaged local governments in enhancing national tourism.

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. lauds the Department of Tourism’s (DOT), flagship program, Tourism Champions Challenge, which encourages local governments to actively participate in the transformation of the country’s tourism industry through innovative infrastructure proposals.

During the awarding ceremony led by the President, Executive Secretary Lucas P. Bersamin, and Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco, the country’s highest official also announced an additional project funding of PHP75 million, making the cumulative TCC grant from PHP180 million to PHP255 million.

“I would like to congratulate the Department of Tourism for striking a rich vein of talent and tapping various stakeholders for innovative ideas that will energize and enhance tourism development in our country. For indeed, the best way to draw crowds is to crowdsourcing ideas and how to bring them in. The response to this Tourism Champions Challenge, I have been told, has been nothing less than overwhelming,” the President said, who also extended her congratulations to Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco.

The President described that the proposals submitted to the TCC are “not mere proposals” but an “impressive catalogue of creativity and innovation.”

It is also heartwarming to note that these are not mere proposals anymore, but they are existing projects of proven value and that have already shown unqualified success. This is the way tourism should be developed in our view, like economic growth, not relying on trickle-down, but built from the ground up,” the President noted.

“The national government will build more infrastructure, implement tourism-friendly policies, and arouse interest from global audiences. As we move forward with optimism in our heart, let us commend Secretary Christina Frasco, the Department of Tourism, and the TIEZA for doing exemplary work on these ends. They have fostered a conducive environment for creative and innovative tourism through this initiative, which meets one overriding objective: Sa Bagong Pilipinas, Mas Maraming Bisita Ang Darating at Pasasayahin,” he added.

For her part, the tourism chief described the event “as a pivotal moment towards the journey of tourism transformation.”

“Pursuant to our President’s vision for our nation, the Tourism Champions Challenge was launched and designed to unleash the potential of cities and municipalities across the Philippines, by inviting them to propose innovative tourism infrastructure projects that aim to foster sustainability, inclusivity, and resilience in tourism development, enhancing our local destinations and communities and most importantly, providing added economic opportunity for our communities nationwide,” the Secretary added.

Launched on April 5, 2023, the DOT has earmarked a cumulative amount of PHP180 million for the TCC, which was conceptualized in collaboration with the Department’s infrastructure arm, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).

“The TCC has sought to empower local government units to conceptualize and develop projects that will create new tourism opportunities, create accessibility, and showcase our unique Filipino heritage. The challenge was structured meticulously through five phases: beginning with a call for proposals, culminating in a project implementation, and inauguration. The rigorous selection process, upheld by standards of integrity and impartiality involves multiple stages of evaluation, from capacity building, through the expert advice of our panel from across the cross-section of the tourism industry, to proposal assessment. This process ensured that the most promising and impactful tourism initiatives were selected for immediate implementation,” Secretary Frasco explained.

Out of almost 100 entries from LGUs across the Philippines, 15 winning proposals from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao were personally awarded by the President and the tourism chief.

Each winner from the three island groups will receive the following: the first place will receive PHP20 million; PHP15 million for the second place; PHP10 million for the third place; PHP8 million for the fourth place; and PHP7 million for the fifth place.  The cumulative amount of PHP180 million will be granted by the DOT in partnership with its infrastructure arm, the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).

During his keynote speech, the President surprised the crowd by also announcing that the winning LGUs would additionally receive PHP5 million each, on top of their prizes.

The winning local governments by order that will receive project funding from TCC are:
LUZON:

1st place: Ambaguio, Nueva Vizcaya’s Ambaguio Skyport – The 1st Local Paragliding “Airport Terminal;” in the Philippines

Envisioned to be a tourism hub and paragliding headquarters, the Ambaguio Skyport aims to empower the local Indigenous communities, namely the ‘Kalanguyas and Ayangan’ tribes, and to establish Ambaguio to be the benchmark for grassroots athletes and safe air sports tourism in the Philippines.

2nd place: Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro’s Pinagpalang Lagusan sa Bakawanan”: A Mangrove Forest Park Development

An aspiring mangrove conservation champion, Sablayan, through its project, aims to preserve a vibrant 12-hectare biodiversity by establishing the 925-meter mangrove boardwalk using eco-friendly materials for sustainability, and revitalizing its tourism destinations.

3rd place: Bolinao, Pangasinan’s Legacy of the Sea Project: A Silaki Island Community Based Tourism Project

A community-based tourism project set in the idyllic fishing village of Silaki Island, situated in Bolinao the renowned “Giant Clam Capital of the Philippines”. It aims to create an iconic tourism destination by harnessing the unique charm of the fishing village experience that respects the local community and preserves the environment.

4th place: San Jose, Romblon’s Establishment of Eco-Tourism Park

San Jose aims to unlock the Carabao Island’s tourism potential while protecting its environment and unique local communities. The project aims to develop an ecotourism park by establishing a cultural and heritage center that will promote the culture and traditions of Ati people and the island’s beaches and natural wonders.

5th place: Socorro, Oriental Mindoro’s Naujan Lake Wetland Center

Socorro’s Naujan Lake Wetland Center is a project envisioned to provide endless possibilities for its local communities through responsible and sustainable ecotourism, livelihood opportunities, and environmental awareness.

VISAYAS:

1st place: Tubigon, Bohol’s Enchanted Ilijan Plug of Tubigon

The Enchanted Ilijan Plug of Tubigon is identified as the country’s first volcanic plug. The project holds significant tourism potential by establishing infrastructure to improve the socio-economic condition and well-being of the Tubigon communities.

2nd place: Badian, Cebu’s Badian Toong Spring Nature Park

Badian weaves the integration of conservation, sustainable tourism, and community engagement. The project aims to contribute to the protection of ecosystems, empower local communities actively engaged in ecotourism, and promote sustainable development practices in Badian.

3rd place: Silago, Southern Leyte’s Silago Ridge to Reef Eco-Experience Project (SIRREEP): Promoting Sustainability through Eco-Heritage Tourism

Silago’s ridge-to-reef eco experience project aims to promote sustainable tourism, protect natural heritage, and stimulate economic growth by establishing an eco-heritage museum to preserve the largest sperm whale skeleton in the country.

4th place: Victorias City, Negros Occidental’s Gawahon, A Birder’s Paradise. Haven for Sustainable and Inclusive Eco-Tourism

Victorias City’s Gawahon Ecopark is an ecotourism paradise envisioned to be a haven for nature enthusiasts. Through environmental conservation and community development, Gawahon is set to be a model for sustainable tourism, a sanctuary for endangered species, and a source of prosperity for the community.

5th place: Panay, Capiz’ Panay: A Coastal Resource Experience

The Panay Coastal Resource Experience Project intends to develop Panay’s mangrove forest with nature-inspired cottages and breathtaking views. It aims to stimulate livelihood opportunities, regenerate mangrove populations, and seek social equity for future generations.

MINDANAO:

1st place: Isabela City, Basilan’s Lampinigan SANDS (Sustainable and Natural Destination of the South): The Lampinigan Jetty Port and Leisure Development Project

Beyond the pristine white sand and jaw-dropping rock formation of Lampinigan Island, the heartbeat of this project is the people. Aiming to enrich tourism activities through community engagement, the project features infrastructure facilities for the convenience of the tourists such as jetty port, pavilion hall and view deck.

2nd place: Davao City, Davao del Sur’s Panunod: A Way of Life, Inherited Preservation of the Unwavering Legacy of Cultural and Sustainable Tourism of the Davao City

Situated at Davao City’s Ramon Magsaysay Park will rise a cultural peace hub for the Indigenous and Bangsa Communities. The project will establish a centralized cultural center and sustainable communities dedicated to showcasing economic opportunities for the arts and products of the city’s 11 ethnolinguistic tribes.

3rd place: Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte (IGACOS)’s Mangrove Boardwalk and Gallery 

Anchored on the City’s priority agenda on environmental management and protection, Samal Island’s mangrove boardwalk project is envisioned to sustain the convergence of infrastructure, economics, and environmental development for the benefit of local communities.

4th place: Tagum City, Davao del Norte’s Truly Tagum: Advancing the Benefits of an Enriched Heritage-Tourism Circuit

Designed to enrich the heritage tourism circuit of Tagum City, the project aims to provide greater opportunities for tourism enterprises, diversified livelihood options for host communities, increased income, and improved quality of life for the community-based tourism stakeholders.

5th place: San Agustin, Surigao del Sur’s Construction of Tourist Catwalk at Gata to Bretania Mangrove Areas

San Agustin’s Tourist Catwalk project aims to develop and preserve its mangrove forest while unlocking its astounding tourism potential through immersive tourist experiences and fostering sustainable tourism development and stimulating socio-economic growth.

The proposals were rigorously reviewed by the TCC Committee chaired by Secretary Frasco, with Undersecretary Shahlimar Hofer Tamano and TIEZA Chief Operating Officer (COO) Mark Lapid as vice chairs, and other DOT officials as members. Invited judges for the TCC Committee also included Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Benjamin Abalos, Jr. represented by Assistant Secretary Lilian De Leon, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga represented by Regional Director Ma. Victoria Abrera, and Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Vice President for Trade Mission and director of the Environment and Climate Change, Infrastructure, and Construction Committee Arch. Felino Palafox, Jr., with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as knowledge partner.

The TCC advisers were former DOT Undersecretary and now Philippine Hotel Owners Association, Inc. (PHOA) Executive Director Benito Bengzo, Jr., former Tourism Undersecretaries and Rolando Canizal and Daniel Corpuz, Associate Professor Dr. Ramon Benedicto Alampay of the Asian Institute of Tourism, and Dr. Maria Cherry Lyn Rodolfo of the Asian Institute of Management.

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George, in his capacity as an intern, diligently oversees the flow of news, assists in the publication of content, and delves into the strategies of social media distribution. He is currently pursuing his studies in Business Administration at the Athens University of Economics and Business.

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