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‘News’ Articles

News & Events 2

Choco Hills now Charter Member of World Famous Mountains Assn.

NOW it can be told – the Chocolate Hills are now a charter member of the Association for the World Famous Mountains (AWFM). This after Gov. Erico Aumentado signed the articles of the AWFM during the 1st World Famous Mountains Conference held in Mount Lushan in Jiujiang City , Jiangxi province, China. Mt. Lushan , with its many villas built by “foreigners” around the start of the 19th century in the European and Western styles, is China ‘s summer capital. Each villa has its distinct history – told to present transients and tourists by their guides, or by framed captioned pictures on the hallway walls. Each villa, it turns out is the former residence of a top ranking official

The temperature in the mountain is easily a good 10 degrees lower than the already cold plains. Its legendary mists that can crawl up around a person even in daytime, the thick fog that is any pilot’s bane and the very crisp autumn air definitely would send especially those raised in warmer climes scampering indoors for “safety.” In autumn, the air can still be chilly even when the sun is up and bright. The near-freezing temperatures did not keep Aumentado indoors for long however. Arriving at 2 a.m. Tuesday at the villa after three airplane rides and land travel of over 200 kilometers just to reach Lushan all the way from Tagbilaran City, he was already up and about for the morning opening program, PowerPoint presentations on their mountains by the participants and unveiling of the mountains’ semi-permanent replicas at the botanical garden.

The Chocolate Hills may be the “most baby” of the mountains – some like Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the highest point in Africa, rises to over 5,800 meters above sea level while the Araripe Geopark in Brazil boasts of a 25-million-year history reckoned from dating well-preserved fossils found in the area. In contrast, the governor’s presentation stated that the two mounds in Carmen town on which the Chocolate Hills Resort Complex rises are only over 500 meters from the sea level. He added that Dr. Eric Vosh, a German scientist-geologist who had studied the hills extensively had discovered a 1.5-meter diameter giant clam therein of which he chipped off a part – that he returned later – for carbon dating in Germany . From that specimen he concluded that the hills were formed around three million years ago.

Bohol and Jiangxi are already “sister provinces” after Aumentado and former Gov. Huang Zhiquan signed an agreement of friendly relations on May 8, 2006 in Nanchang City . President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and then secretary of the Communist Party of China Jiangxi Provincial Committee and chair of the Standing Committee of the Jiangxi Provincial People’s Congress and now Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu witnessed the event. The agreement gave rise to the “sister-mountain” relationship of gigantic Lushan and the Chocolate Hills – and earned for the latter the invitation to attend the 1st World-Famous Mountains Conference. Aside from Mt. Lushan , the Chocolate Hills, Araripe and Kilimanjaro, the charter members or “initiators” across five continents are Mount Gambier of Australia , Mount Hood of USA, Table Mountain of South Africa, Nature Park Eisenwurzen or the Alps in Austria , Bergstasse Odenwald Global Geopark in Germany , Gaina Mountain and Covasna Mountain both in Romania and Mount Tai of China

The non-government, non-profit, loose, social and friendly organization’s permanent headquarters is Lushan. The members shall endeavor to exchange coordination and cooperation as well as platform for common issues like resources protection, tourism development and services for cooperation in tourism, environment, culture and education among members and future members. The members agreed to keep in touch, share information, advanced management technology, plan and conduct tourist product exhibition, project development and training, among others, largely through the internet, and through annual meetings.

For the association’s funds, Lushan will provide from US$300,000 to $500,000 for its first year of establishment as development fund, and will offer US$200,000 each year for operational funds. It will also encourage contributions from the members on a voluntary basis, earn income from business activities carried out by the association and earn interest also from the fund pool, among others. In his closing remarks, Director Zheng Xiang of the Mt. Lushan Administration Bureau volunteered to be the AWFM’s deputy chair. The chair and the secretary general must be persons of higher position, he said. But he designated Deputy Director Heidi Zhu of the World Heritage Office of Mt. Lushan and Dr. Gary Larsen, Forest Supervisor of Mt. Hood National Forest in the USA as deputy secretaries general. He also announced that Mt. Lushan will again host the association’s second conference next year. By JUNE S. BLANCO

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bohol Sunday Post

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News & Events 1

2 Giant Developers Eye Panglao Recla

Target: 500 Hectares of Panglao Island’s Shoreline

The race is on to bag the lucrative contract of reclaiming about 500 hectares of the most expensive real estate in the vast shoreline of Panglao island. But there’s no doubt here that the two big time groups vying for attention of the local government have one thing in common: they try to outsmart each other in reclaiming a big portion of Panglao island’s shoreline for sale to big-ticket investors waiting in the wings. Reading like a who’s who in Philippine business and politics, the men and women behind the two groups are expected to throw in billions of pesos in good money in the biggest seashore project ever known to any Boholano. First to lay claim in the most ambitious project ever known in Bohol is the group of businessman Norris Oculam, former president of the Bohol Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Believed to be fronting to a group of big name Chinese businessmen, Oculam as chairman of the board and president of Bohol Oasis Islands said his group was already granted an audience with Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in one of her recent visits in Cebu recently. With the President granting the group an audience, it was interpreted by Oculam as a go signal to go on with the project. In that Cebu meeting were Tourism Sec. Joseph “Ace” Durano and Trade Sec. Peter Favila. Gov. Erico Aumentado arranged the meeting with the Oculam group. A joint venture with the provincial government, this reclamation idea was presented to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, during its session last week.


With the Panglao International Airport in the pipeline making the island more accessible to tourists, the highlight for more room accommodations becomes more evident. Oasis Islands believed that while there are areas that are still undeveloped, they are owned by several individuals, rendering the acquisition of these lands difficult. Negotiating with land owners with small land holdings is even made more complicated by the existence of multiple heirs that the buyer-investor will have to deal. This makes land acquisition a long and tedious job for investors. The reclamation idea makes it easy for investors to pour in their money where there mouths are if they deal with only one entity. That is what exactly Oculam’s group is looking at when it proposes to reclaim part of Panglao Bay .

It was gathered that the same group was informed that in the past, major international hotel chains have already come to explore the potential of acquiring properties in the province. Shangrila, Hilton, the Four Seasons have expressed interest in acquiring lands in Panglao. The Raffles Group of Hotels and Resorts had at one time considered Bohol as a prime entry point for their business in the country. Furthermore, big property developers like Ayala Land, Megaworld, Filinvest, FederaLand of Metro Bank and One Asia Development Corp, the property arm of Republic Biscuit Corp. have also been keen to acquire lands for investment.

With Panglao Oasis Islands , the idea is to package something that will totally give the investors a headache–free opportunity for their proposed commercial, tourism and even residential communities. The proposed initiative will be undertaken in a manner that least environmental damage will be created as a result of the activity. Under the reclamation plan, the area of the Panglao Bay starting at the back of the town church all the way to the shoreline of Doljo will be reclaimed in an average depth of 0.4 meters-thereby making it an ideal location for reclamation. This group is hiring the services of the Hawaii-based master planner, the WATG, a leading design consultant for hospitality, leisure and entertainment industries that has worked in 160 countries and territories across six continents With its expertise in environment and sustainable design, WATG, through its Panglao project will adopt the methods and approaches used by Sanctuary Lakes in Melbourne , Australia .


The other group competing for attention in the race to reclaim land along Panglao Bay is the Panglao Waterfront Development, Inc. Just as big as the first, this group has an authorized capital of P100 million. It has for its chairman of the board a big name in reclamation projects F.F. Cruz, Sr while its vice chairman is Tagbilaran native Fernando “Ding’ Borja who was known to have earned his pile in mining nickel in Surigao. Another incorporator is Marilou J. Arroyo, said to be a relative of the First Gentleman Mike Arroyo. With Jun Lim of Lite Shipping fame holding a 10% stake in the company, is Sec. Leandro Mendoza of Transportation be far behind? According to incorporation papers, Mendoza was indeed one of the members of the board of directors. True to its big time connotation, the company is spending P7 million for the preparations of the feasibility study courtesy of the world class Palapox and Associates. In the race to get approval from the LGU, this group has already bagged a contract with Mayor Benedicto Alcala authorizing the same to conduct the feasibility study.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Bohol Sunday Post

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News & Events 3

Bid Invites for Panglao Airport Published Soon

THE proposed Panglao Bohol International Airport (PBIA) has finally hurdled the final requirement for the publication of the invitation to bid for the construction of its runway and allied facilities. Bohol Gov. Erico Aumentado said the proposed airport passed through the eye of the needle – referring to the three and a half-hour public consultation at The Pavilion of the Bohol Beach Club in Bolod, Panglao town that provided both oppositors and supporters the time to air their remaining issues and concerns on the P7.542 billion facility. The project originally cost P4.2 billion. With a realignment of the runway by 32 degrees to avoid landing or taking off in the direction of the resort row in Alona Beach, acquiring additional lots for future expansion of the runway, terminal building, cargo and parking areas among others, and the engineering interventions needed to fill cracks and crevices, however, the proposed airport incurred a cost overrun of around 76 percent.

The realignment and adjustments like the 2.5-kilometer runway from 2.1 kms., and 7,000 square meters to 11,000 sq. m. or around 1.2 hectares for the terminal building alone – excluding the areas for cargo, parking and other facilities – plus the engineering interventions are contained in the detailed engineering design that the Philippines Japan Airport Consultants (Phil.JAC) submitted. The 2.1-km. runway can accommodate the Airbus 320s that airlines currently servicing Bohol currently use. The longer runway can already accommodate Airbus 330s or the kind that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her party chartered for her recent official trips to Korea , Europe and Brazil .

In his opening statement, Rafael Tagalog of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Region 7 said the airport is aligned with the national and the Central Visayas regional development frameworks that, among others, have identified Bohol to be within the Central Philippines super region that is dedicated to tourism. He said NEDA has evaluated the project feasibility study and finds it economically viable. Assistant General Manager Tirso Serrano of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) provided figures on the airlines, flights and passengers it has served in the past year and the visions for the Panglao airport that is part of the country’s medium term development plan. President Arroyo has designated MIAA as the lead agency in implementing the project that must comply with international standards as contained in her Memorandum Order 210.

Serrano assured the crowd of over 250 persons that MIAA is up to the task in fulfilling its mandate. Phil.JAC’s Dr. Edgar Doña presented highlights of its feasibility study and detailed engineering design. Aumentado had designated lawyer Handel Lagunay, provincial legal officer, to act as floor leader to ensure a smooth activity flow. In the open forum, issues on power and water supply, environment, propriety of the airport location, the master plan conducted by Palafox Associates, livelihood for those whose lands were acquired for the airport, budget, comprehensive land use plan, social acceptability, sharing of tax collected, sustainability and some technical aspects were addressed.

The questions raised – including fears and apprehensions – turned out to be moot as the issues have been thoroughly deliberated on and discussed by the NEDA Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) Technical Board and Cabinet Group that had required the final consultation in the first place. The healthy exchange concluded with a 100 percent adoption of the decision and declaration to immediately implement the Panglao Bohol International Airport Development Project as moved by lawyer Jose Torralba, chair of the project’s Local Task Force, seconded by lawyer Lucas Nunag, chair of the Bohol Provincial Tourism Council. In waiting for objections or opposition, Aumentado conducted a long count but heard none until he reached 10 – making the approval unanimous. He expects the notice of bidding to be published in a national paper within the month. By JUNE S. BLANCO

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bohol Sunday Post

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Map of Panglao and Tagbilaran


1 – Tagbilaran City Airport7 – Panglao Island Nature Resort (PINR)
2 – Bohol Tropics Resort 8 – Hinagdanan Cave
3 – Island City Mall (ICM) 9 – Bohol Beach Club (BBC)
4 – Tagbilaran City Pier 10 – Eskaya Beach Resort
5 – Sandugo Blood Compact Site 11 – Alona Beach Area
6 – Baclayon Church & Museum12 – Balicasag Beach Resort

Back to Map of Bohol

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