TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Tuesday declared Panglao Island in Bohol province as the first tourism economic zone in the country as she unveiled the marker to a 100-million-peso expansion project at the Tagbilaran tourism seaport.
Panglao Island, which can be reached from this city in less than an hour via a causeway, boasts of a kilometer-long white sand bar that could rival the more famous beach on Boracay Island in Aklan province.
Wearing a white raincoat to shield her from the drizzle, the President pulled the cord for the unveiling of the perspective of the 100-million-peso harbor view and boardwalk at the Tagbilaran tourism seaport, a project of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and the provincial and Tagbilaran City governments.
The launching of the tourist-friendly port city came on the heels of Panglao Islandís proclamation as the Kalakbay Awardsí Tourism Destination of the Year, while Boholís Tourism Council garnered the Tourism Council of the Year award.
Admitting that she is the No. 1 tourist of Bohol for having visited the province so many times, the President said: "Bohol is a major tourist province. The fame of the Chocolate Hills is not only known in the country but worldwide. Now Panglao will offer the world and its peoples the amenities of a wonderful beach resort with excellent sites and facilities."
Also inaugurated was the new Tagbilaran government center which, Ms Macapagal said, was the dream of Boholís favorite son, the late President Carlos P. Garcia.
The President flew here to commemorate the 107th birth anniversary of the late President, who was born Nov. 4, 1896 on Talibon island.
After lunch at the new government center, she opened the 9.8-million-peso Tabuan Bridge in Antequera town, some 24 kilometers from Tagbilaran City. There was also a symbolic inauguration of 8.6-million-peso Inambacan Bridge in San Isidro town.
World famous sites in Bohol include the Chocolate Hills, the 1,268 nearly perfect cone-shaped hills scattered in three of its municipalities. These hills, declared as a National Geologic Monument, were formed centuries ago by tidal movements.
Another tourist attraction here is the Philippine tarsier, the smallest living primate measuring four to five inches that is estimated to be 36 million years old.
The famous dive sites of Panglao -- Balicasag, Cabilao and Danajon Reef -- are comparable with the world heritage site Tubattaha Reef in Palawan province.