Role of agri-tourism in national development cited

President Aquino is optimistic about the potentials of agri-tourism in the country, citing the availability of needed manpower and the innate hospitality of Filipinos.

The chief executive expressed his view in a message read for him by DA undersecretary for field operations Joel Rudinas at the start of the 1st International Agriculture and Tourism Expo (IATE) held June 20-July 2, 2011 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.

“We are fortunate to have such a large pool of talented manpower in our population who have the ability to communicate in English and who are hospitable beyond measure. Perhaps that is the most important factor in the development of agri-tourism. Events, such as this exposition, serve as an apt venue to keep tab on industry prospects and trends and to craft strategies and forge partnerships that will give this niche market its much needed boost. This is indeed a good start,” the President said.

He stated that the parallel growth of agriculture and tourism is an appropriate and timely goal.

“We also look forward to our investors’ additional capital and initiatives in making agri-tourism truly an economically beneficial endeavor. I believe that their presence here today speaks for the commitment we all share towards the growth and development of the industry,” he added.

For his part, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, emphasized the significance of the three-day activity.

“This Agriculture and Tourism Expo is very significant. By addressing agriculture and tourism, they become two engine drivers that will help deliver the country to the road of economic development,” Pangilinan said.

“The challenge today is to continue to participate, mobilize and get involved in shaping our community. This Expo is an exhibit of participation and making a stand for progress and development in our country,” he stressed.

He added: “I am certain, optimistic and hopeful that with the continued support and partnership of private sector and government, we would be able to achieve development”.

The 1st IATE, which had for its theme “Improving Economy through Agriculture and Tourism”, focused on the highlighted a wide-array of agri-tourism programs of government agencies, local government units and private companies as well as related products. About 400 exhibitors took part in the event that also featured seminars and other public fora.

Major agencies, such as the DA, DOT, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) supported the event. They also pledged support for joint undertakings and other efforts to promote agri-tourism.

According to TESDA director general Joel J. Villanueva, the Philippine tourism campaign has been rated as the most improved in Asia with 14% annual growth rate, which is the highest in Southeast Asia.

“Imagine the potential for jobs creation economic development that the 7,107 islands of this country can bring. Our islands offer exciting diversity that can truly compete with other nations”, Villanueva said.

DOT Secretary Alberto Lim and Kenneth Dong, the event organizer and president of A-Linx Events, International,  signed a Memorandum of Understanding on March 31 this year that committed both parties to further work on the development of agri-tourism through the promotion of “adventures” in the countryside.

Currently, the country is sustaining 32 eco-tourism sites, including 27 protected areas that include the Tubbataha reef, a national marine park in Palawan.