DEVELOPMENTS. Pangasinan first district Representative Arthur Celeste (right) toured the personnel of the Department of Public Works and Highways last week to check on the ongoing and proposed projects at the Hundred Islands National Park in Alaminos City. Celeste, in an interview Friday (Jan. 13, 2023), enumerated projects to be undertaken at the park this year. (Photo courtesy of Art Celeste's Facebook page)

BOLINAO, Pangasinan -- The first district of Pangasinan will implement more eco-tourism and infrastructure projects that would further boost the tourism industry and economic development in the nine towns and one city of the province.

Western Pangasinan or the first district of the province is already known for its tourist spots, such as the Hundred Islands National Park, the white sand beaches of its coasts, rock formations such as the Umbrella Rock of Agno, and the Giant Clam nursery in this town, among others.

However, accessibility remains a huge challenge for tourists.

Pangasinan first district Representative Arthur Celeste, in an interview on Friday, said the provincial government plans to partner with an airline company for the establishment of a domestic airport here.

“They are targeting small planes that can accommodate 14 to 20 persons only. We are starting the land acquisition for the airport and hopefully, the residents will cooperate although they have already signified their willingness to sell their properties,” he said.

The flight would be from Manila direct to Bolinao once the project pushes through.

He said the airport area would cover around 23 hectares.

“It is not just a dream but a plan and it is feasible. Everybody knows the tourism potential of the first district,” he added.

Celeste said an eco-tourism salt farm project is also underway in this town.

The provincial government has recently signed a salt production sharing agreement with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources that aims to provide continuity of operations to the salt industry and give security of tenure to about 400 displaced salt workers to be backed by the necessary services, technology and financing.

The salt farm area for the project is around 473.88 hectares of foreshore land situated in Barangay Zaragoza.

“It serves as an avenue to prepare for the looming salt shortage at the end of the year as local production does not cover domestic demand per the previous announcement of the Department of Agriculture (DA). The government share shall be computed based on a formula per DENR Administrative Order No. 98-67, otherwise known as Guidelines for the Identification and Award of Areas Suitable of Salt Production,” as stated in the agreement.

Celeste said the salt farm will also be developed into an eco-tourism area.

“We are talking of 500 hectares property more or less. We will be hiring a planner to plan the property. Aside from salt production, it would also be best to have tourism-related activity, especially that according to the farmers and the previous owners, there are 92 species of birds so there are a lot of potential tourism activities,” he said.

Celeste said it would be launched province-wide since Pangasinan’s name was derived from "asinan," which means salt-making area.

“It is very near Bangrin mangrove farm. If we aim for tourism, it’s just a few minutes away from other tourism sites,” he said.

Meanwhile, Celeste said the provincial government has allocated PHP20 million and his office PHP50 million for the initial funding for the convention center here.

“We need a beautiful convention center to attract more tourists. We will make it a world-class convention center. According to the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) estimate, it would cost around PHP150 million,” he said.

The center will be built at the current location of the Bolinao civic center beside the Saint James the Great Parish Church, which is a tourist attraction being one of the oldest churches in the country and where the first mass in the country was possibly held, Celeste said.

The public market situated at the back of the church and the civic center will be transferred to a one-hectare lot to be donated by the family of Dr. Miguel De Perio.

“Since the first mass was possibly held at the Saint James the Great Parish Church, a park should be built beside it where the residents and tourists could go,” he said.

Celeste said the provincial government has allotted PHP20 million for the rehabilitation of the Hundred Islands National Park (HINP) in Alaminos City.

“We are currently developing the Bonsai Island and plans to construct a giant Mama Mary in the Pilgrimage Island and its nearby islands,” he said.

He added they have already hired 10 Bonsai caretakers and 40 persons to maintain the HINP for the next six months.

“We should improve the facilities as the competition in the tourism industry is very stiff,” Celeste said. (PNA)