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Rediscover Manila–aboard a Pasig River cruise

Posted in Manila, Rest and Liesure, Tourism, Transportation, Travel by Erineus on June 17, 2009

By Sunshine Lichauco de Leon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:06:00 06/14/2009

MANILA, Philippines – “The state of the Pasig River today mirrors the state of the country. And the potential of the river mirrors the potential of the country. It might take a generation to make it happen, but the river, and the country, can be transformed,” said Tourism Secretary Ace Durano as he observed the view from the deck of the Pasig River Ferry.

Durano recently took the ferry as part of the launch of a new tourism program. Thanks to a partnership between Philcoa, an association of tour operators that exclusively promotes in-bound and domestic tourism, and Department of Tourism and ABS-CBN’s “Kapit Bisig sa Ilog Pasig” project, visitors can now use the Pasig River “to see and explore Manila.”


Providing an alternative to the more conventional tour package trips to Luneta, the National Museum or Intramuros, this new program is centered on the concept of “Beyond the Usual.” Its first tour, “Pasig Ferry Cruise and Binondo Culinary Walking Tour” is just the beginning.

The ferryboat cruise will start at the station in Mandaluyong and end in Escolta. En route, the air-conditioned, 150-passenger boat passes historical areas such as Malacañang Palace and Sta. Ana. An outside deck is also available for those who want fresh air and a glimpse of water lilies floating by.

Starting in September, pre-taped audio-visual presentations will be shown onboard on all ferries with tours, with historical facts and stories shared as each particular area of interest is passed by the ferry.

A guide from the Mabuhay Guides group, the DOT’s highly-trained team of tourist guides, will meet the group at Escolta and conduct a three-hour walking tour of the highlights of Binondo.

The tour provides historical information and insights on what life was like in a bygone era, with visits to streets such as Escolta, Tomas Pinpin, Quintin Paredes, Ongpin, Condesa, and Enrique Yuchengco.

A visit to a local Philippine-Chinese temple is also included. To provide a break from experiencing the sights and sounds of this bustling area of little streets and alleys, stops are made at different eateries where participants can try things such as delicious dumplings and fresh Chinese lumpia.

Although walking tours of Binondo exist, this program is unique in that it uses the Pasig River as a means to transport local and foreign tourists to the heart of what was once “Chinatown.”

Walking tours emanating from other Pasig River Ferry stations will be launched in September.

Within the next two years, tourists will be able to disembark at the Mexico station for a walking tour of Intramuros; the Sta. Ana station for a heritage tour of Sta. Ana; and Guadalupe for shopping at nearby Shangri-La Plaza, and SM Megamall.

Sense of pride

As Clang Garcia, owner of Jeepney Tours and Philcoa member, says, “It gives me a sense of pride to rediscover the richness of Philippine history. Seeing it through such an unusual experience of traveling on the Pasig River only heightens that affect. It made me feel connected to my real identity as a Filipino.”

According to Durano, the Pasig River tour program is important because everything begins with building appreciation of this vital waterway.

“We just need more people to appreciate it and to not continue the mind-set of past generations, which have neglected what we have. It can dramatically improve the quality of life of residents of Metro Manila,” he says.

The Pasig Ferry Cruise, along with its peripheral tours, is just one example of the “Beyond the Usual” tour packages that have been created by Philtoa. The rest will be officially launched at the Philippine Travel Mart on Sept. 4. The fair is open to the public.

For more information on the Pasig River tours, call 812-4513 or visit www.philtoa.ph.


New Mindanao flight route to boost tourism

Posted in Mindanao, Rest and Liesure, Tourism, Transportation, Travel by Erineus on May 18, 2009

By Ryan Rosauro
Inquirer Mindanao
First Posted 17:24:00 05/17/2009

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines—Northern Mindanao’s tourism industry could get a boost with budget carrier Cebu Pacific’s opening of its Davao-Cagayan de Oro route, a local tourism official said Saturday.

The new route is a “good connection” for international flights to Davao City, which is fast becoming Mindanao’s international hub, with direct flights from Indonesia, Hong Kong and Singapore, said Catalino Chan, tourism director for Northern Mindanao.

Davao City is also the country’s main link to the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), he said.

Chan said the expected increase in tourist arrivals would also spur the economies of nearby tourism service-providing localities in Northern Mindanao such as Camiguin, Bukidnon and Lanao del Norte.

The Gokongwei-owned carrier opened the 50-minute Davao-Cagayan de Oro route last Thursday, with flights every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Using a 72-seater ATR aircraft, the flight leaves Davao City at 6 p.m., and returns to the city at 7:10 p.m.

Before Cebu Pacific opened the route, tourists going to Northern Mindanao have to fly to Manila or Cebu before flying to either Butuan or this city.

For those flying into the country via the Davao Airport, the only option then was land transport, which takes about eight hours to this city.

In Ozamiz city, Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr. said Cebu Pacific also announced that it would open a Manila-Ozamiz flight.

Cebu Pacific’s vice-president for marketing and distribution, Candice Iyog, confirmed this, saying the new route would start on June 16, with an Airbus A319 aircraft.

The route will likely be serviced four times a week, she said.

The Manila-Ozamiz route is currently served only by Air Philippines, another budget airliner.


Seair extends 14th anniversary promotion

Posted in Rest and Liesure, Tourism, Transportation, Travel by Erineus on May 8, 2009

Updated May 08, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Due to insistent public demand, Southeast Asian Airlines (Seair) is extending its 14th anniversary promo by giving additional discounts of up to P70 million.

Until May 31, passengers get P1,400 discount per roundtrip on all fare classes and seats to any of its destinations when they book their flights online.

The travel period for this promo is from June 15 to Oct. 15. Travelers may log on to www.flyseair.com and type “iflyseair14” in the promo code field to avail themselves of the promo.

Seair has flown almost three million passengers to local destinations, including Boracay, Puerto Princesa, Tablas (Romblon), Masbate, Clark, Zamboanga, Jolo (Sulu), and Tawi-Tawi.

It currently flies daily to Basco, Batanes and will be increasing flights to twice daily to the scenic island paradise until June 14 every Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

Seair also offers flights from Boracay and Puerto Princesa to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.


RP has Asia’s deadliest roads

Posted in Road, Transportation, Travel by Erineus on April 20, 2009

By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 17:04:00 02/28/2009

MANILA, Philippines — The country’s roads are the most dangerous in Asia, Senator Francis Escudero said in a statement released Saturday.

Citing a study conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund last year, he said that three of five road accidents involved child pedestrians and road accidents were the leading cause of injury admissions to hospitals.

Escudero’s statement came after a 10-year-old pupil from Ateneo died this week after being run over inside the school parking lot.

A separate study by child safety groups in the country shows that six children die from accidents in the country daily, the senator said, adding that the country has a total of 2,500 vehicular accidents monthly involving both children and adults.
Citing another study by the Asian Development Bank in 2006, Escudero said: “Overall, the 7.8 percent of the 100,000 people who die as a result of traffic-related accidents a year is one of the highest in Asia according to the Asian Development Bank.”

Escudero thus called on the government to make use of the Road Users Tax (RUT) to make streets safer for pedestrians.

He said the patent lack of safety signs, endless road diggings, varying traffic rules in different localities, aging motor vehicles, among other factors, contribute to the bad state of roads in Metro Manila and the rest of the country.

“More than P30 billion in (Road Users Tax revenues) over the last four years have not made streets any safer for kids. RUT-spending should be refocused to make schools child-safety zones. A driver can be fined for reckless (driving or) overspeeding, but who will fine the government for reckless spending of RUT funds?” he asked.

“Under Republic Act No. 8794, or Road User’s Tax Law, 7.5 centavos for every peso paid for car registration should go to a special road safety fund,” he said.

He said that this year, out of a projected P8.9 billion Road User’s Tax collection, an estimated P668 million should be funneled into this safety fund.

Julian Carlo Miguel Alcantara, known to his friends as “Amiel,” was inside the Ateneo campus with his 65-year-old nanny when he was hit and run over by a van.

“Beyond the fields of Ateneo lie grim statistics on child vehicular deaths. Road accidents have become the most prolific killer of Filipino children after pneumonia,” he said, referring to the Unicef study.

“Spent well and applied wisely, the whole road user’s tax fund can bankroll engineering and education initiatives that will result in safe roads. Unfortunately, the Road User’s Tax has been caught in the wrong priorities,” Escudero said.

Escudero bared that in the year 2006, total collection from the RUT amounted to P7.49 billion, while P7.73 billion was raised in 2007. Last year, it stood at around P8.34 billion.

He said the rush to register new vehicles has increased the dangers for children going to school.

“But the latter should not be hazardous to their health, and government has the resources to make it so,” Escudero said.


Jetstar Asia cited for ‘best brand experience’

Posted in Tourism, Transportation, Travel by Erineus on March 9, 2009

SINGAPORE — Jetstar Asia has been named “Best Brand Experience for Low-cost Carrier” in the biennial Asia Travel and Tourism Creative Awards given by Ad Asia Magazine.

This is the first time the magazine is giving this award, which is based on an online survey conducted by Ad Asia and Purple Insights, an independent research and branding firm.

The respondents were nearly 400 senior executives in the fields of advertising, marketing and media, all frequent affluent business travelers.

“We have come a long way since we launched our airline in 2004 and this award has again demonstrated that Jetstar Asia is in the top league of low-cost carriers. The staff of Jetstar Asia is committed and dedicated to a job that they do so well. Our crewmembers have proven once again that they have what it takes to take Jetstar Asia to the skies,” said Chong Phit Lian, chief executive officer of Jetstar Asia.

The Singapore-based carrier has also reaped recent accolades from Skytrax Award — Best Low-cost Airline, Southeast Asia and Asia (2006, 2008), Changi Airline Award from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) as one of the “Top 10 Airlines by Passenger Carriage (2006, 2007)” as well as the TTG Travel Awards’ “Best Asian Low-cost Carrier (2006, 2007).”

Jetstar Asia is a value-based carrier operating out of Singapore that flies to 16 destinations in 10 countries within five hours of Singapore.

Its wide regional network includes Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Macau, Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Manila, Taipei and Yangon. In Manila, it flies out of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

For more information, visit www.jetstar.com or call 810-4744.


Modernization of North Harbor overdue

Posted in Maritime, Modernization, Transportation by Erineus on March 6, 2009

By Neal Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:49:00 03/05/2009

The lone bid in the P10-billion, 25-year North Harbor modernization project will be opened by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) this month. The lone bidder is a joint venture of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) and Harbour Center Port Terminal (HCPT).

The other bidders were disqualified due to deficiencies in the requirements. And this prompted workers’ unions in the waterfront to buy full-page advertisements in three newspapers claiming that the project was going through “the classic bid-rigging formula, where the Terms of Reference and Contract of the project have practically been tailor-fitted to match the whims and caprices of the winning bidder and is obviously disadvantageous to the government.” The winning bidder has answered all the allegations made in those advertisements.

What I can say is that the modernization of the World War I North Harbor is long overdue. Not many people have gone through there (these are the piers where inter-island vessels from the provinces dock) but for those who have, it is a horrifying experience. It is a stinky, decrepit port devoid of any semblance or benefit of the modern age. It is the perfect picture of a Third World country: you find everything that is trash and find nothing pleasant and worth remembering.

Vendors hawking all sorts of merchandise everywhere; con-artists trying to trick the poor “probinsyano” [provincial] into parting with his hard-earned money; stevedores fighting to carry the cargo of the passengers; confused passengers; chaotic traffic; even more chaotic cargo handling; dilapidated buildings; garbage strewn everywhere; pickpockets and unruly taxi drivers galore; generally a system of utter chaos; its underwater structures deteriorating at an alarming rate — this is North Harbor.

North Harbor used to be the crown jewel of the Philippine transport industry. Not anymore. It is now an example of everything that is wrong in a waterfront. It suffers in comparison even with other ports in the country, like Port of Batangas, where one can marvel at the modern equipment.

It is in this context that the PPA crafted plans on how to convert North Harbor into a sprawling world-class facility and to regain its old glory as the gateway to the country’s major seaports.

The modernization project will boost inter-island shipping and improve the economy. The harbor will be dredged to accommodate bigger ships. The port will be fitted with modern cranes and a bigger and wider container depot to accommodate more container vans coming from the provinces.

Mulcting drivers will no longer be around as the proponent included in the project the fielding of modern buses to collect passengers from the port to their destinations anywhere in Metro Manila.

The government will earn P6.8 billion in 25 years. On the first year of operation, the PPA will earn P160 million, more as the years go by, on top of other fees to be collected.

Phase 1 of the project will be implemented over a period of six years. First off, the two-lane piers will be widened. During the first year, the crane rail for two LO-LO (load on, load off) births at Terminal 1 and concreting of container yards will be completed. After the LO-LO berths, the operator will procure two shore cranes and support equipment.

The other components of Phase 1, such as reclamation, construction of the PTB, construction of additional LO-LO and RO-RO (roll on, roll off) berths, including the development of an information technology (IT) system, will be completed within three years from the start of the contract.

Phase 2 will cover the development of Terminals 2 and 3 and the second Passenger Terminal building at Slip 5, which will be constructed within three years after the completion of Phase 1.

The project is economically feasible and will not be disadvantageous to the government as alleged by some quarters.

First, the modernization of North Harbor to a world-class port will be done without the government spending a single centavo. The PPA will be guaranteed a fixed fee of P6.8 billion for 25 years regardless of economic conditions. The PPA will retain collection of fees for usage, wharfage and anchorage, among others.

Second, the winning bidder will reimburse the PPA P15 million as consultant’s success fee within 10 days from signing of the contract. The bidder will reimburse the PPA for past service benefits advanced by the PPA in the total amount of P113 million.

Third, the main criterion for award of the contract is lowest tariff, meaning reduced fees for the port user.

And fourth, upon expiration of the contract, all improvements, structures, buildings and facilities will belong to the PPA.

The project will retain the government’s sovereign power to levy tariff. During the 25 years of the contract, the government will continue to levy port charges, such as usage fees and wharfage charges. It will continue to approve the rates on cargo-handling charges similar to contracts on the South Harbor and the Manila International Container Terminal.

And it is the PPA, and not the winning bidder, who will be responsible for the removal of the squatters within North Harbor.

In concrete terms, modernization will bring world-class facilities and services to North Harbor; seamless domestic trade connections to Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao; service reliability and safe operations; tightened security to eliminate crime; sustained employment to 5,000 direct and 20,000 indirect workers within and without the area.

* * *

Kapihan notes: Among the guests at this Monday’s Kapihan sa Manila media forum will be Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, who is currently in the hot seat and against whom an impeachment case has been filed.


Time to travel: Room rates, air fares down

Posted in News Feature, Rest and Liesure, Tourism, Transportation, Travel by Erineus on February 11, 2009
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MANILA, Philippines — It’s a good time to travel nowadays as air fares have been slashed by as much as 50 percent while room rates are down by 10 percent.

Philippine Travel Agents Association (PTAA) vice president John Paul Cabalza said air fares have gone down by more than 50 percent to encourage more people to take a trip.

“There are some airlines that offer airfares for as low as P1,500 roundtrip for Palawan or Boracay,” he said.

Room rates have also gone down by 10 percent, still in an attempt to prop up domestic tourism to offset the slack in international tourism.

Because of the slowdown in the global economy, the government said tourism will have a negative growth or a flat growth at best.

“Maybe we can experience a little growth if the domestic tourism picks up. We see this happening. I think this is the trend,” Cabalza said over the weekend at the sidelines of the three-day travel expo at the SMX Convention Center.

“Instead of traveling overseas, people opt to go to local destinations and the cheap fares encourage people to travel. Who can resist a bargain,” he said.

With the air fare and room rate cuts, domestic tourism is expected to increase by 15 percent.

The anticipated increase will come from travels of associations like the Philippine Medical Association, the government sector and various schools, Cabalza said.

He said the months of November until May are considered the peak seasons of travel.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) has signed an agreement with the Department of Tourism in an attempt to encourage more investments in the tourism sector by creating tourism economic zones.

“The signing of this supplemental MOA signals the country’s strong investor confidence despite the global crunch. In fact, we expect a boost in investment as we offer lower costs in workforce, construction and tourism infrastructure development,” Tourism Secretary Joseph Durano said.

The supplemental MOA will give Special Economic Zone status to tourism development zones or tourism estates.

Pursuant to Republic Act 7916, as amended by RA 8748, tourism development zones/tourism estates may be granted Special Economic Zone Status upon registration to PEZA and issuance of the required presidential proclamation. PEZA, however, will only consider proposed development tourism zones endorsed by the DOT.

“Tourism is seen to be one of the strongest propellers of the economy for the year ahead. Together with the government, we seek to intensify the impact of this industry on the economy, particularly by encouraging investments and creating opportunities for tourism economic zones,” Durano explained.

Author:  Elisa Osorio
Updated February 09, 2009 12:00 AM