Tourism, being an important industry in many developing countries, we have learned to always maximize promotion given technology and social media at our own disposal.
I remember in 2006, I envisioned Iloilo to be a premier city by 2015. Encapsulated in this vision is to making Iloilo City a tourism oriented LGU. Part of the goals is to make Iloilo a Center for Arts, Culture and Sports and to be a Tourism and Convention Center (ISA Scorecard). Through proper urban planning and the full cooperation of the people and stakeholders, with strong public-private partnerships, we were able to realize that vision, and I am proud to share to all of you that Iloilo City has now become an IT hub being one of the cities with the most number of BPOs.
In 2009, I hired the world renowned urban planner, Arch. Jun Palafox for the comprehensive land use plan that paved way for business parks of different developers like Ayala and Megaworld, and now giving thousands of opportunities for the Ilonggos.
As a potential convention destination, Iloilo has an increased number of tourists every year, and we have been acknowledged by many agencies as a premier MICE destination having successfully hosted the 2015 APEC and the 2017 ASEAN ministerial meetings in Iloilo City.
Iloilo has been receiving tourism-related recognitions from both national and international organizations, but for today, allow me to talk about three recent winners of Galing Pook Awards – Dinagyang Festival, Iloilo-Batiano River Development Project, and I-Bike: a Program Promoting the Development of the Iloilo City Bike Culture.
Considered as one of the best festivals in the country, Dinagyang Festival has earned so many recognitions. From being the only hall of famer in Aliwan Festival, recently, the Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines has awarded Dinagyang Festival as the Best Tourism event during the pandemic through our digital celebration. This was made possible through the collaboration of the Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc., Iloilo City Government, and the Ilonggo Artists who were so passionate and hands on in mounting wonderful show for the Ilonggos.
ILOILO BATIANO RIVER
From a dying river twelve years ago, the Iloilo River rose to become, once again, the anchor of economic development in Iloilo City. Today, Iloilo River is back to its old stage as a major waterway for livelihood, fun and leisure, and a heritage site for the Ilonggos.
The river development project started eight years ago in collaboration with national government agencies, non-government organizations, academe, and civic society. It aimed to address siltation, water pollution, water encroachment, illegal cutting of mangroves, and informal settlement along the Iloilo River. Iloilo River Development Council was also established as a consultative and coordinative body with primary goals of improving the water quality and preserving its ecology while promoting sustainable development of the city.
The collaborative efforts among government agencies and stakeholders paved way for the relocation of about 1, 000 families living along the danger zones of the river and its offshoots. 10 derelicts and 38 idle vessels blocking the river for about a decade were also removed, and illegal fish pens and dikes were eliminated. The old slaughterhouse near the river was closed, and a modern one was constructed away from the river with a P40-million assistance from Department of Agriculture.
Dubbed as the “Bike Capital of the Philippines,” we have an 11-kilometer bike lane at the main roads of the metropolis. An addition of 32.86-kilometer bike lanes are also pipelined along with bike racks connected with ramps, safety lines, signages, and barriers. This also addressed traffic congestion problems and will pave way for more opportunities for Iloilo City.
The I-Bike Development project aimed to promote the bike culture in Iloilo in order to lessen carbon footprints.
Another project that support our bike culture is the Iloilo Bike Festival which has been running for 3 years already. This encourages more commuters to switch to biking as their mode of transportation.
The booming tourism landscape of Iloilo City resulted to better opportunities for the people, and it is a product of the collaborative efforts of the people, the government, non-government and private organizations, and investors coupled with proper urban planning.
Thank you to Galing Pook Foundation for giving us this opportunity to share and to be an inspiration for other LGUs.