COTABATO CITY: A tourism boom in the province of Tawi-Tawi has been recorded with visitor arrivals increasing three times more this year compared with figures posted in 2016.
Mobin Gampal, Tawi-Tawi provincial tourism officer, said the province is attracting local and foreign tourists despite the entire Mindanao being under martial law since the second quarter of the year over the Marawi City crisis.
“In one month, we can expect more than a thousand to about three thousand tourists both from other provinces and from outside the country,” Gampal added.
”One factor that attracts tourists is the stable peace and order situation in our province. Tourists do not request security personnel when they visit the province because they feel secure,” he said.
The most visited spots in Tawi-Tawi are Bongao Peak, better known as Bud Bongao, Panampangan Island, Simunul, Sitangkai, Panguan Island and the Turtle Islands.
With the increasing number of development and tourism projects, mostly initiated by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the province seems ready to be the region’s top tourist destination.
Since 2012, the ARMM has placed more than P3-billion worth of projects in the province, including tourism infrastructure.
The ARMM has developed Bud Bongao into an Eco-Tourism Park with the construction of a visitor receiving center, waiting sheds, view decks, solar-powered post lights, concrete paved steps and handrails and a 400-meter access road.
This tourism project was supported by a P56-million budget from the regional government.
The inaugural climb of the Bud Bongao Eco-Tourism Park was held in July this year.
Nilma Askali, 22, from Barangay Nalil in Bongao, said she has been climbing Bud Bongao regularly, noting a bird’s eye view from the peak relieves her of worries and anxieties.
“It can relieve the stress from work, your tiredness will be gone, and you will feel relaxed once you are at the peak viewing the entire island,” Nilma added.
In Tawi-Tawi, entry into tourist spots, including parks, is free, Gampal said.
He added that accommodation, food and other amenities in the province are affordable and generally budget-friendly.
”The lifestyle in Tawi-Tawi is unique. Most of our tourists are coming here not only because of the place itself, but because of the life Tawi-Tawi has,” Gampal said.
JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL