Bud Bongao, also known as Bongao Peak, stands at 340 feet above sea level and is a top tourist attraction on the island. DPWH-ARMM
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Tourism to Tawi-Tawi has tripled against figures from last year, the province said in a report to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The tourism boom comes as Simunul town celebrates the arrival of Sheikh Karimul Makhdum six centuries ago. The event, meant to mark the advent and practice of Islam in the Philippines, is celebrated every November 7.
Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff, had earlier ordered the military to maintain its presence in the area.
“Make sure our sea lanes are properly secured and implement the joint operations with the combined forces of Navy, Marines, Air force and Army,” Guerrero said in his order for increased security near the country's maritime borders.
Mobin Gampal, provincial tourism officer, said in a report to ARMM said Tawi-Tawi has been attracting local and foreign tourists despite martial law in Mindanao, which was declared in May and has been extended until the end of the year.
Gampal said the number of monthly visitors has increased to about three thousand against last year's average of just a thousand a month. He attributed the increased tourism to peace and order in the province.
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The tourism official said the most visited spots in Tawi-Tawi are:
Panampangan Island, a white beach with the longest sandbar in the Philippines
Simunul, the bastion from which Islam spread in the country
Sitangkai, known as the Venice of the south
and Turtle Island
The province is ready to be the region's top tourist destination because of the increasing number of development and tourism projects, Gampal said.
Most of the development projects have been initiated by the ARMM.
ARMM has allocated more than P3 billion for projects in the province since 2012. The regional government has developed Bud Bongao into an eco-tourism park with the construction of a visitor receiving center, waiting sheds, view decks, solar-powered post lights, concrete paved steps and handrails and a 400-meter access road.
The inaugural climb of the Bud Bongao Eco-Tourism Park was held in July 2016.
To encourage tourism, parks in the province do not charge entrance fees.