Promoting and Developing Tourism in Southern Mindanao

DOT Speech 3

Promoting and Developing Tourism in Southern Mindanao
Speech of Gemma Cruz Araneta

Secretary of Tourism
Southern Mindanao Tourism Council Assembly
General Santos City, 3 September 1999


Before anything else, allow me to congratulate the organizers and prime movers of this Regional Tourism Council Assembly in Southern Mindanao.

I learned that General Santos City used to be called Buayan but sometime in the 1950’s, it was renamed General Santos in honor of General Paulino Santoswho in the 1930’s  blazed a trail in the Koronadal valley  for migrants from other parts of the Philippines. Today, General Santos  is known as   “the Tuna City” of the Philippines.It is  one of the most dynamic areas of development which boasts  of the most modern port facilities. As soon as the tuna fish are caught, these can be immediately packed and sent to international buyers, in the wink of an eye.

This is not my first visit to your vibrant city. Last   August 24, President Joseph Estrada came to visit and he brought his Cabinet secretaries along with him. Mayor Adelbert Antonino served us the most delicious tuna I have ever tasted; he told me in confidence that the tuna you send to Manila is not really the best. He was making me feel deprived, I told him. Well, the good mayor should know what he is  talking about, after all,  he is the prime mover of the Tuna Festival.

It is a great pleasure to be back again, so soon, in your dynamic city. I want to thank the generous people of Gen San and  your energetic Chairman of the Southern Mindanao Tourism Council, Mr. Boy Santiago, for inviting me to address this regional meeting of tourism council leaders.I am looking forward to witnessing the Tuna Festival. I heard there will be a tuna-eating contest. I promise not to join that one because I might win. .

We in the Department of Tourism recognize the vital role that General Santos City and the entire SOCCSKSARGEN (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos city)  play in the socio-economic development ofSouthern  Mindanao.  Today, we no longer refer to Gen San as the “back door” of the Philippines, it is  “The New Front Door” of the South. Your city certainly  deserves that accolade.

The Department of Tourism believes in the potentials of   Southern Mindanao, the SOCCSKSARGEN, as a multi-faceted must-see tourist destination. You have everything in Region 12– eco-tourism,  culture, history,  heritage, gastronomy and unique handicrafts. Region 12 is a  perfect fit for the “Rediscovery “ program of the Estrada administration because   the provinces in this region have a wealth in culture and traditions that date back to pre-colonial times. By enhancing these through domestic tourism, we will strengthen Filipino identity and pride of place.  Davao is already one of our 8 Anchor destinations and Gen San should strive to me named the 9th.

The Tuna Festival is a unique  tourism product which is an effective  drawcard for both local and foreign tourists. The other component provinces of   SOCCKSARGEN should follow the example of Gen San to aggressively   develop their own  distinctive tourism activities that will  contribute to the socioeconomic development of their place.

While advocating domestic tourism, the DOT is also  promoting  international tourism and all that needs the support of  local government units  starting from the barangay and  municipal, provincial and city tourism and cultural councils in this region.  Let me call on the private sector, the small and medium enterprises for their vigorous and creative support. By the way,  you can invest in restaurants in your port area  where visitors can  feast on freshly- caught tuna.

I strongly propose that we take full advantage of the BIMP-EAGA, the Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East Asia Growth Area, which was launched in Davao city in 1994. This  group aims to strengthen   sub-regional cooperation in trade, investments andis already a reliable partner in the realm of cultural exchanges through tourism.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are at the threshold of the 21st century and the new millennium. Economists the world over predict that the  new century will be a time of unprecedented economic growth, in particular, for the tourism industry. As many as 8 billion tourists are expected to crisscross the world’s tourism highways, air lanes, oceans  and waterways in the new millennium.  Asia is beginning to fully recover from the crisis and will be in the forefront of regional growth and development. During this assembly, let us discuss how we can capture some of thoseopportunities so our tourism arrivals can reach unprecedented levels. Together we can draft  policies, establish methods of working together under the aegis of the “Rediscovery” program. I want   General Santos City  and Region 12 to  become  major pillars of Philippine tourismin the years to come.

Let work together to make this Southern Mindanao Tourism Council a resounding  success.