Realizing Dreams thru Tourism Development
Among tourists, Loboc is renowned for its floating restaurants, which conduct cruises along the scenic and winding Loboc River. Tourists also flock to see the tarsiers. Up until 2004, the LGU had no exact data about how many tourists were visiting or how much they were spending. But they hit upon the idea of developing tourism services and facilities as a way of attracting more visitors and generating additional income.
Between 2004 and 2005, the municipal LGU conducted several consultations with barangay officials, people’s organizations, NGOs and the business sector to find out what they needed to do to make the necessary improvements. The consultations led to the overhauling of revenue- generating measures and the professionalization and centralization of government and tourism facilities and services. It also resulted in the issuance of new policies governing tourism and the promotion of sound environmental management practices.
The LGU also conducted awareness raising campaigns about sustainable environmental and tourism practices and held regular meetings and dialogues with the stakeholders—i.e. the residents, community leaders, boat operators, and the on-board entertainers. Municipal officials, department heads, and tourism staff operators were also exposed to other tourism practices to stimulate better appreciation of environmental factors crucial to tourism development and the impact of tourism. These changes gave the community renewed hope and encouraged their active participation.
LIT HOPE became the local government’s banner cry and also summarized their development plan for the municipality. The acronym stands for Livelihood, Infrastructure, Tourism, Health and Sanitation, Organization Strengthening, Peace and Order, and Education.
With the assistance of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Finance, the LGU was able to link with and tap financial assistance from several international donor agencies such as the Canadian International Development Agency, Australian Agency for International Development, and World Bank.
With funds at its disposal, the construction of a modern docking port and tourist complex became the LGU’s flagship project. This facility was designed to comply with safety standards as well as provide comfortable accommodation to visiting tourists. It also helped facilitate the monitoring of tourist arrivals and the collection of fees. Eventually, the reforms helped raise the tourism income of the municipal LGU from only PhP278,000 in 2004 to a whopping PhP51 million in 2011.
Subsequently, the LGU managed to tap other donors and sponsors to support infrastructure, livelihood and human resource development. Big television networks such as ABSCBN, GMA Network, TV 5 and even international TV channels in Asia and Europe entered into agreements with the LGU, which allowed it to buy cheaper airtime for the promotion of Loboc as a favored tourist destination.
The successful endeavor also encouraged a bank to set up shop in the town. This has made it easier for the farmers and entrepreneurs to acquire capital for their enterprises. Among the other benefits of the program are employment creation, more livelihood, improved environmental conservation, paved roads and a better peace and order situation.
For its achievement, the Loboc LGU has garnered several awards and recognition such as the Seal of Good Housekeeping from DILG and the Customer Satisfaction Seal of Excellence Award from the Civil Service Commission. Loboc has shown that innovative and ingenious practices coupled with the active involvement of a broad community of partners can contribute a lot towards economic development.