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DOT Eyes Taiwan Model For Ilocos Birdwatching Tourism

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DOT Eyes Taiwan Model For Ilocos Birdwatching Tourism

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The Department of Tourism (DOT) is looking at the birdwatching tourism model used in Taiwan’s southern city of Kaohsiung in developing a similar niche product for the Ilocos Region, specifically in the provinces of Pangasinan and Ilocos Norte.

DOT Region 1 (Ilocos) Director Jeff Ortega said birdwatching is among the emerging niche products that the agency is keen to further strengthen, especially as it seeks to “decentralize” tourism activities in already popular destinations and bring more attention to lesser-known sites in Ilocos.

“When you go to (Kaohsiung in) Taiwan, grabe ang birdwatching nila (their birdwatching there is great), it’s so small yet so green. What they did is they built wooden decks around the greenery,” he said in an interview at the Philippine Tour Operators Association, Inc. (PHILTOA) general meeting on June 19.

“That’s the goal (to model it from Kaohsiung) and that’s part of our tourism development plan for birdwatching,” he added.

The budget to construct these facilities, however, “is another story”, he admitted.

In the meantime, DOT Region 1 is actively partnering with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Ilocos to identify areas that have potential as birdwatching trails.

To date, Ortega said the DOT has classified as “ready” for birdwatching Pangasinan’s Bani, Bolinao, and Lingayen; La Union’s Agoo, Bauang, San Fernando, and San Gabriel and the Kalbario-Patapat Natural Park in Pagudpud.

The Kalbario-Patapat is a good birding location for birdwatcher who wants to get a chance to see a variety of species such as the flame-breasted fruit-dove, spotted imperial-pigeon, Philippine eagle-owl, whiskered pitta, green-faced parrotfinch, yellow bunting, tanguile, short-crested monarch, scale-feathered malkoha, Luzon bleeding-heart, and Luzon hornbill, among others.

Apart from birdwatching, Ortega said the DOT is studying opportunities in bike, dive, and cruise tourism in the region.

The DOT, he said, is also promoting its Miraculous Marian Pilgrimage trail that is spread across Ilocos Region for travelers devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

He said Ilocos has one of the “systematic” circuits in the Philippines that comprehensively lists all miraculous Marian churches in the region.

“There are less than 20 churches involved because there are only a few miraculous Marian churches, hindi lahat may miracle (not every church has miracles associated with it),” he said.

PHILTOA Board of Trustees member Fe Abling-Yu agreed that Ilocos Region’s emerging destinations have the potential to attract not only domestic tourists and returning overseas Filipinos but also foreign travelers.

“Ang maganda kasi sa Region 1 ay ang connectivity niya. Ang gusto lang namin ay madagdagan ang destinations (What’s good with Region 1 is its connectivity. (For us operators), what we want is to get more destinations to offer),” she said in a separate interview.

“Ang Region 1 ay value for money kasi kapag pumunta ka sa kanila, mayroon kang 1,000 pesos lang marami ka nang mabibili kasi hindi siya mahal (Region 1 is already a value for money destination because even if you only have PHP1,000, you can already but a lot of stuff to bring with you home),” she added. (PNA)