Last week, I took the liberty of writing about Solina Beach and Nature Resort in Carles and the investment it made on the mainland and how the local government can support such private endeavors so that the bulk of the physical structures for tourists will be constructed in the mainland and eventually protecting its premium island destinations from the hazards of over construction and over population.
Let me continue then sharing some thoughts not as an expert in tourism but as an observer who wanted to enjoy my stay in places where I want to spend some vacation time.
Islas de Gigantes can become and be sold as Iloilo’s premier day time destination where visitors can spend their days frolicking around its pristine waters and enjoy eating the fresh offerings of the sea while spend their nights enjoying what mainland can offer. A good and well researched set of activities for individuals, couples, families and groups can be initiated and incorporated in the experience. A certain group of interested residents of the island can be organized as a people’s organization and the barangay can provide means of initial capital in order to set up water sports which can be offered to the visitors and the income of which can serve as means of livelihood for its members.
Since there are already beaches and resorts on the islands, the local government of Carles can legislate a five-year moratorium on the construction of new resorts in order to give way to the old ones to shape-up and improve their facilities.
A local tourism council can be initiated and be given a clear legislated mandate in managing the local tourism industry. The council will then craft guidelines that would set optimum standards for resorts and tourism establishments to strictly follow so as to prevent the mushroom-style manner of putting up new resorts and consequently provide the guests a classy and memorable experience.
A concrete waste management plan must be integrated with the help of the environment department in order to avoid the Boracay mess from happening in the area. Sad to say, since the local government is not ready to handle the sudden popularity of Islas de Gigantes, an actual survey of the resorts operating on the island would show that a good majority are operating without proper waste disposal mechanism and waste water treatment facilities thus all the wastes are poured directly to the sea.
Even the solid wastes in the island are kept and burned in makeshift facilities as the resources of the local government are not enough to put on a good waste management facility. Worst, a regular garbage collection scheme is not yet in place.
Additionally, the council will be tasked to conceptualize and implement sustainable economic activities around the islands so that the benefit of tourist activities and influx of visitors will not be limited to the resort owners only. These can be in the form of shell craft, cultural presentations and even backyard farming
Homestays, on the other hand, can be maximized and improved to accommodate those who wanted to stay in the island which will not in any manner require monstrous constructions and use of heavy equipment that will eventually affect the natural ecosystem on the island.
Just recently, Tourism Regional Director Helen J. Catalbas suggested that a short-term closure of Islas de Gigantes be enforced to give the island a rest. The local government of Carles is hesitant which is understandable from the point of view of economics. However, the suggestion of Catalbas is more than valid. Carles for one has been receiving a lot of visitors but the wharf leading to its beautiful islands is not ready to accept guests. The welcoming atmosphere of a concrete and covered boat terminal with all the needed facilities is absent.
There are no concrete tourist facilities like island wharves and rest rooms in the island destinations.
The much needed ambulant water medical facility complete with regular medical personnel is not yet in place.
In short, it’s a long way to go for Carles in making itself tourist-ready and tourist-friendly.
The drive and excitement of its people is there. All that is needed now is the synergy of resources and ideas from both the local government of Carles and the provincial government of Iloilo in order to make it a sustainable tourist destination.