Maximizing the agri potential of Guimaras

Department of Tourism regional director Helen Catalbas leads the inter-agency dialogue of public and private tourism stakeholders in Guimaras at Hotel del Rio in Iloilo City on Thursday. (Emme Rose Santiagudo)

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

Before the Iloilo Strait tragedy claimed the lives of 31 motor banca passengers on Aug 3, 2019, the province of Guimaras was gearing to become the agri-eco tourism capital of Western Visayas.

Now, the Department of Tourism (DOT) Region 6 wants to regain this thrust of the province in response to its declining tourism industry.

During the inter-agency dialogue of public and private tourism stakeholders at Hotel del Rio on Thursday, Guimaras Governor Samuel Gumarin reported the declining tourism industry of the province.


Citing the data from the Guimaras Provincial Tourism Office, Gumarin said visitor arrival numbers from August 4-31, 2019 dramatically decreased by 73.84 percent.

“We only recorded 11, 432 arrivals compared to the 43, 709 in the same period in 2018,” he said.

Also, tourism receipts of the province recorded August 4-31 also plunged from P42.9 million in 2018 to P9.8 million in 2019, the governor added.

According to DOT-6 regional director Helen Catalbas, apart from positioning the province as a safe destination, there is a need to maximize the agriculture potential of Guimaras.

For the longest time, Catalbas said that the province had been fully dependent on its sister city, Iloilo City on its food requirements.

Naga kawad-an kita pagkaon, it is an indicator that we are not food sufficient, ang aton uma ara sa may “Super” market,” he lamented.

She emphasized the need to reverse the current economic activity of the province in order for it to be food sufficient.

“Instead of kita mabakal sa Super kag dal-on sa Guimaras, the hotels and malls will go to Guimaras and maghakot balaklon indi na kita ang gatabok,” she stressed.


Catalbas said that developing the agriculture potential of Guimaras is a challenge to the local government units (LGUs) and the municipalities.


“This is a challenge. LGUs, municipalities, province, please look at your potentials kon kinahanglan niyo, training and farming, buligan kamo namon and sang mga stakeholders. Kinahanglan mapartner kamo sa mga huge establishments which can help you,” she stressed.


Catalbas cited the example of 40 farmers in Jordan, Guimaras that were trained by SM City Iloilo on producing agricultural outputs.


In fact, Catalbas said that they are planning to launch market-day tourism in Jordan.


“With more farmers being trained, Jordan will be the bagsakan in Guimaras. We have identified 20 potential markets in the region but we will start with Jordan. Our plan is to launch a market-day tourism in the said municipality,” she added.


The tourism department has gathered tourism stakeholders for a dialogue to improve the tourism industry of the province.


During the dialogue, several tourism-related problems were looked at such as the unhealthy/inconvenient travel of tourists and locals from Iloilo City to Guimaras and vice versa; the unregulated rate of bancas and vans; limited boat trips; unsafe and dirty wharves; and lack of system in terminal ports among others.


Immediate actions were committed during the dialogue. For one, boatmen committed to assisting senior citizens and those with special needs commuting in motor bancas.


Both the LGUs of the wharfs of Buenavista and Jordan also committed to impose strict maintenance of their facilities and to provide comfort rooms and other necessary amenities to the riding public.


On the side of the province, Gumarin said that they are preparing for the design of the training for boat crews and operators on life-saving and emergency skills.


Gumarin who recalled the painful oil spill that also afflicted the province last August 2006 said the Iloilo Strait tragedy is an eye-opener for the province of Guimaras.


Emphasizing the need to do away with the old ways and move forward, the governor appealed to the stakeholders especially the boat operators to do their part in helping the province regain its glory.


Sa tanan nga sakayanon, it is an eye opener for all yet gabalik kita kung ano ginaubra ta sang unaAng problema halin sang una, amo sa gihapon ginistoryahan halin sang una amo man sigehapon, nga tani nacorrect ta na. Hopefully, tuod-tuodon naton suporta as you give your commitment nga tuodon man ang mga ulubrahon kay amo gid na kailangan sang turismo,” he said.


Former congressman JC Rahman Nava who represented the office of his wife, Guimaras Congresswoman Lucille Nava said the incident should never be a setback for Guimaras.

“Let us move forward. This incident will never be a setback for us but a springboard for us to succeed. If we can do it last August 2006, we will do it again now. We are ready to commit infrastructure wise para mapanami ang, ini para sa inyo, para sa Guimaras,” he noted.