Monopoly at Pamilacan Island Dolphin and Whale Watching Tour?

Pamilacan Island's former whale hunters now turned tour guides on Friday asked the National Ecotourism Office of the Department of Tourism (DOT) to stop DOT's "unequal treatment" and to abolish the alleged business monopoly by a travel operator.

"We felt (the) DOT has given false promises in their project in Pamilacan as none of the benefits reach the majority members of the local community," read a resolution passed last Friday by the Pamilacan Island Boat Operators and Spotters Association, Inc. (PIBOSAI).

PIBOSAI officials complained that Travel Village and Tours, owned and managed by Walter and Lourdes Sultan, allegedly monopolized the dolphin and whale watching enterprise, "to the disadvantage of the other DOT accredited travel agent and tour operators in Bohol."

The officials said it was the Travel Village's complete contact information which was being printed in the posters used in the marketing and promotion of the so-called marine tour. The colored posters were printed at government expense promoting a private travel operator identified closely with Gov. Erico Aumentado.

"…prudence and ethics dictates that any support intended to enhance the delivery of the tourism services should involve the maximum participation of all the affected stakeholders regardless of religion and political affiliation…," the resolution said.

The Marine Life Tour is a project supported by the New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAid), DOT, provincial government, and the local government of Baclayon.

Jojo Baritua, PIBOSAI manager, told the Chronicle that if the project is under the government, it has to benefit for everybody. He said the DOT envisioned to professionalize all former whale and dolphin hunters, but that vision has failed since only few were benefited by the project.

"The benefit should not be consigned to one business entity," Baritua said.

"We are in a disadvantage because they (Travel Village) get free production of advertisement," he added.

Printed in all materials and brochures produced through government funding were the following contact details: "for inquiries and bookings, please contact: in Bohol, telno: (038) 411 3510 local 607 | telfaxno: (038) 411 5928, in Cebu telno (032) 231 1495 | email: tvillage@mozcom.com or PIDDWO mobtelno: (0917) 971 3101 or contact your favorite travel agent:."

The Chronicle checked the landline numbers and it was confirmed that the no. 411-3510 local 607 is the front desk number of the Bohol Tropics Resort where Travel Village's office is located while 411 5928 is the Travel Village's direct number.The number for Cebu is that of the IslandSkipTrip, a business partner of the Travel Village.

Lately, new brochures were reportedly circulating but now without the name of Travel Village. However, the same contact numbers appeared in the brochures.

PROMISES

The resolution noted that the DOT, in partnership with the New Zealand, "promises to provide livelihood opportunities that will benefit the majority of the people of Pamilacan."

"Majority of the people of Pamilacan has not felt the assistance of the (DOT)…," PIBOSAI officials said in the resolution.

They said that since the banning of catching dolphins, whales, whale sharks and manta rays, the islanders' livelihood now largely depends on watching tours, looking forward to DOT's promise of assistance.

Even so, the officials said they noticed that the DOT "has concentrated only its assistance to a few people who were not directly involved in the hunting (operations)."

Baritua said Travel Village is working with the Pamilacan Island Dolphin and Whale Watching Organization (PIDWWO). He said PIDWWO has only two boats being used for whale watching.

"We pray and request the National Ecotourism Office of the Department of Tourism to give equal treatment to all organized group and tour operators…," the group appealed in the resolution.

The resolution was unanimously approved on March 5 by Baritua, Maximiniano Valeroso (chairman/president); Teotito Valeroso (vice president); Nonita Baugbog (secretary); Moises Opada (treasurer); Oseta Rodulfo (auditor); Teresito Arano and Marcial Aguipo (PROs); and Rogelio Arano, Teodoro Miculob, Victorino Araula, Nazario Valeroso and Teodoro Pioquinto (board of directors).

Copy of the resolution has been furnished to DOT Manila, provincial tourism council, Bohol Tourism Office, and the DOT-Region VII.

SULTAN

Sultan was used to be the technical consultant on investments of Aumentado. However, Sultan filed his resignation after tourism industry players demanded his ouster due to glaring conflict of interest being a tour operator himself.

However, even after his resignation, Sultan continued to attend government meetings as shown in the recorded meetings of the Regional Tourism Council (RTC) chaired by Aumentado.

The local tourism industry, led by top hotelier Anos Fonacier, has expressed surprise why Sultan continued to act as if connected with the governor's office.

REPLY

Sultan, in an interview yesterday, said it was the decision of the PIDWWO to choose Travel Village as its partner because "PIDWWO requested our support and they recognize our capability."

"PIDWWO cannot run its own business without marketing network," Sultan said.

Sultan said that long before the New Zealand Aid came in, Travel Village has been supportive to PIDWWO through training.

When the NZAid was looking for beneficiary, Sultan said, the choice was PIDWWO "because it's a people's organization," unlike the PIBOSAI, a private group.

"PIDWWO was the only qualified and accredited group. The organization's members have been professionalized," Sultan said. - 2004 News Archive - Bohol Chronicle