BATANGAS CITY – The Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office (PTCAO) will offer an “immersive underwater experience” during the 34th Philippine Travel Mart as part of efforts to promote the protection and conservation of the still-pristine Verde Island Passage (VIP).
The travel fair will be held at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City from Sept. 1-3, the PTCAO announced Monday.
In an interview, Vanessa Tolentino, PTCAO’s Senior Tourism Operations Officer, said part of the priority program of Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas is to create awareness of VIP’s importance not only to the province but to the world.
“Governor Mandanas recognizes the VIP as the province’s marginal advantage. He aims to promote the conservation of the VIP where 30 percent of the province's food source comes from,” she noted.
The VIP is dubbed as the “Amazon of the Oceans” for being the most biodiverse marine habitat in the world as it houses 60 percent of all known shore fish species in the world, over 300 coral species, underwater rock canyons and reef formations.
The tourism official said her office aims to introduce unique marine resources of the province to tourists and nature lovers during the three-day fair.
She disclosed that in 2022, the tourism fair was attended by almost 60,000 travelers when the province featured faith tourism and cultural heritage that included Taal Basilica.
This initiative of the Department of Tourism, in partnership with the Philippine Tour Operators Association, is a huge advantage for the province since thousands of Filipinos will look for emerging destinations this year, according to Tolentino.
She revealed that “the state of tourism in Batangas is alive and well again” as the province is one of the top tourist destinations near Metro Manila.
The PTCAO is continuously monitoring the establishments in the province to ensure quality service standards will be delivered accordingly.
Tolentino added that they recently conducted consultation meetings with the local government units (LGUs) to make Taal Volcano Protected Landscape (TVPL) and the VIP part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
For his part, Fr. Edwin Gariguez, lead convenor of Protect VIP, commended the travel fair as it takes on the challenge of protecting the global biodiversity hotspots.
Meanwhile, he underscored that “one very evident threat to the VIP is the proliferation of gas-fired power plants and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals in Batangas Bay.”
Protect VIP is a network of civil society and faith-based groups, youth and community stakeholders calling for the protection of the VIP. (PNA)