Friday, May 15, 2015

Country’s longest boulevard rising in Camarines Norte
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, May 14 (PNA) – The country’s longest boulevard, hyped as another exciting man-made tourist attraction in Bicol, is more than halfway to completion.

Named President Corazon C. Aquino Boulevard through an ordinance passed by the provincial legislative board of Camarines Norte about two years ago, the beachfront road structure now undergoing construction covers 8.7 kilometers extending through the seaside borders of the province’s three towns — Daet, Mercedes and Talisay.

It covers the area declared as a tourism destination by the Department of Tourism (DOT), as it is situated along the fine, white sand Bagasbas Beach in the capital town of Daet with a wide boardwalk cast from red semi-adobe bricks intended for tourists view deck.

Bagasbas Beach itself is an ecotourism site which has been accredited by the DOT as a surfing spot that since five years ago has been a venue of several international surfing and kiteboarding competitions.

This point also leads to Calaguas in the nearby town of Vinzons, the number one island destination in the province for its enchanting group of islands which is considered an unknown paradise that can rival the beaches of Boracay and the serenity of Pagudpud.

Owning the reputation of a virgin island as development is yet to be introduced, Calaguas is gifted with a long stretch of white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters and unspoiled natural resources where tourists are raring to visit and enjoy the beauty and serenity of the place being kissed by the waves of the Philippine Sea.

When completed, the boulevard will also open a more panoramic access to the town of Mercedes, dubbed as the “Fish Bowl” of Bicol.

Melvin Navarro, the regional director of the Department of Public Works and Highways for Bicol based here, on Thursday said the construction and improvement of the boulevard is under the DOT-DPWH Convergence Program for Enhancing Tourism Access.

This program, he explained, covers the establishment of a mutual cooperation in jointly undertaking the identification, evaluation, prioritization and implementation of infrastructures in declared tourism destinations.

Navarro said the ongoing works, which were started over a year ago under five contracts, are being undertaken by DPWH regional office and include the rehabilitation, improvement and construction of the San Jose Section in the municipality of Talisay, the Bagasbas Section in Daet, the Mercedes-Bagasbas Road, and the construction of two bridges.

As of this week, he said, the project has accomplished 58 percent of the programmed works, completing 5.017 kilometers out of the 8.657-kilometer boulevard with the remaining sections proposed for future funding in the amount of Php265 million to include the construction of the two bridges.

“At 8.7 kilometers, it will be the longest boulevard in the country—longer than the 7.6-kilometer Roxas Boulevard in Manila. Today, the longest seaside road outside Metro Manila is the tourist-favorite Legazpi Boulevard that stretches more than four kilometers, traversing three barangays along the Albay Gulf from the commercial district here,” Navarro said.

As a support structure to the province’s tourism industry, DOT Bicol Regional Director Maria Ong-Ravanilla said the impending completion of the President Corazon C. Aquino Boulevard will also be highlighted by the rehabilitation and eventual reopening of the long-been mothballed operations of Bagasbas Airport.

The airport rehabilitation is a Php100-million project covering the expansion of the existing runway, construction of perimeter fence, lighting installation and putting up of a modern control tower equipped with air navigation and radar systems.

The Regional Development Council (RDC) earlier included in its 2011-2016 Public Investment Program (PIP) for Bicol the rehabilitation plan with a total amount of Php77 million divided into four installments of release—Php40 million in 2013, Php24 million in 2014, Php5 million in 2015 and Php8 million in 2016.

Serving once as Camarines Norte’s only aviation facility, the airport, located along the world-famous Bagasbas Beach, is classified by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines as a minor commercial domestic airport that is presently non-operational.

Camarines Norte needs this airport to be operational so that it is able to cheer up further the province’s tourism industry, Ravanilla said.

Once upgraded, the airport that for now could only accommodate Fokker or light planes would be able to serve bigger aircraft and respond to the needs of the growing number of tourists who want to experience the wonders that the province offers, she said.

Its operations would also open the doors for more investments in the mineral-rich province that is noted for its gold mines.

It will benefit not only big tourism investors such as hotel and resort owners and operators but also the people in the countryside where most of tourist destinations are located by providing more opportunities for employment and business ventures, she said.

Other services and small-scale businesses such as transport, souvenir shops, handicrafts and the like would be created as tourism activities intensify in an area, while large-scale tourism stakeholders are needed to expand to include employment for common people such as housekeeping and food services.

The province also boasts of its queen Formosa pineapple, the sweetest in the world that is now being processed and exported by some local manufacturers.

Daet town, the provincial capital and the province’s center of trade and commerce, was last year adjudged by the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) as among the country’s most competitive municipalities. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/

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