'Surfing capital' seeks infrastructure funding to boost tourism

The local government promoting this island in the Northeastern Mindanao as the "Surfing Capital of Asia" is seeking funds to further improve its facilities to accommodate the growing number of foreign and local tourists drawn to the destination.

Ping Espejon, municipal mayor of General Luna in Siargao Island, told reporters that the municipality will need at least P194 million to upgrade its facilities.

He said the projects include: irrigation, P1 million; bridges linking barangays of General Luna, P50 million to P75 million; farm to market roads, P75 million to P100 million; drainage P15 million; sewerage, P10 million; water supply, P10 million; view deck and catwalk near Cloud 9, P7 million; the improvement of the pier as an extension of boulevard, P23 million to P25 million; and a trauma center which will have 10 rooms, P3 million to P5 million.

"We cater to extreme sports enthusiasts and yet we do not have a hospital and our health center is ill-equipped to handle injuries. That's where the trauma center can come in," Espejon said.

Siargao has been holding national and international surfing competitions to boost the tourism on the island, which is a part of the province of Surigao del Norte.

Espejon also said that the island even has more to offer than Boracay, the most popular tourist destination in the Philippines. Siargao offers a 27-kilometer stretch of white sand and 17 identified caves while Boracay only has three kilometers of powdery white beach.

Meanwhile, Gerry Degan, co-owner and manager of Sagana Resort and the organizer of the Billabong Cloud 9 invitational, said some of the resorts on the island are losing money because tourism is a seasonal business.

"Siargao is well-known in the surfing world but beyond that, not so," he said.

Degan, an Australian, noted that the island's main tourism setback is the poor transportation system as there is no direct flight servicing Siargao.

"We'd be happy if we could get direct flights either from Manila or Cebu. Surfers don't mind the long travel as long as they find good surf, but other tourists, they would rather not get on a boat or a ferry here in the Philippines," he said, referring to the recent accident involving Sulpicio Lines where as many as 800 people perished

It takes three hours to reach Siargao from Surigao City by boat.

"Another thing is that there are usually no garbage trucks to pick up the trash but sometimes when I yell loud enough someone will come and pick them up," he said.

Degan noted that he, along with other resort operators, has been meeting with local officials to air concerns on the development of General Luna. (Cheryl Arcibal, GMANews.TV)

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