No tax rest in ravaged Bantayan Is.

by Maria Eleanor E. Valeros, #newmedia specialist

caption: Establishments like Balikbayan Resort get no tax reprieve even when badly beaten by the storm. Agnes Gilbuena, owner, reveals how they have to make ends meet: start all over again from scratch while settling dues.

BANTAYAN ISLAND, CEBU, PHILIPPINES — No such thing as zero-percent loan interest and tax rest period for Bantayan Island traders and entrepreneurs.

In its first-ever media presentation, the Bantayan Island Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BICCI) lamented how crisis lashes at them double whammy.

Having close to nothing at all to expect from the government when it comes to efficient post-Yolanda rehabilitation programs, the chamber looks at humanitarian consideration in loan grants tax reprieve and or levies, or for that fact, a rest period.

“However, it didn’t come. We have to survive crisis of sorts since we have to settle our taxes by the book while taking all the means to be able to stand above the storm,” Agnes Gilbuena who heads the hotels, bars and restaurants association here disclosed. She runs Balikbayan Resort in Santa Fe which you might want to check because of its cozy space where diners can talk – really talk over meals and wine.

Vince Escario, vice president (external) of the Bantayan Island Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a chapter of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce, also lamented on the lack of zero-percent interest rates even in the name of humanitarian consideration.

“Financial institutions have offered a one year grace period but on the second year of the loan, a six percent annual interest rate applies,” he said.

As for BICCI president Arthur Despi, he noted that even loan guarantors are asked to settle four percent in taxes, the risk being passed on to loanholders. “It’s really hard for us to cope with that because while we are trying to spread hope around here, some forms of help are also accompanied with a burden to loanholders. We are in the process of strong writing and lobbying that the Bureau of Internal Revenue relaxes their way with us, makes it a bit easier for us, knowing what we went through.”

Another burden to the island is the cargo and passenger rates. “Compared to Camotes-Danao and the Escalante-Tabuelan or Tuburan routes, the Hagnaya-Santa Fe route is shorter but more expensive. The Marina has to do something with direct shipping lines to reduce the rates especially the goods from the mainland,” Escario added.

The chamber was created last year to raise issues and provide proper forum for dialogue. It eyes collaboration among entrepreneurs in the island’s three towns, mostly fishermen, to understand the dynamics of economics in their trade and distribute efficiently the benefits of rehab efforts in the area.

This is the first-ever media presentation of the BICCI in line with the #iBLOGforBANTAYAN event, a brainchild of Escario’s, which saw the convergence of the Cebu Blogging Community and traditional media, as well as the Philippine Information Agency-7 in shouting out social good as Bantayan Island takes a proverbial resurrection from the ashes.

After the presentation, the #iBLOGforBANTAYAN participants were taken to a GawadKalinga site to take a literal stance to “ecovoluntourism.” The group took over shoveling and painting, and other construction works, as our share in rebuilding and relearning hope.

The area in Barangay Ticad is actually intended for a municipal village. GawadKalinga houses sit on an eight-hectare lot, with 300 units now home to some 59 families.GawadKalinga is connected to social enterprise “Human Nature,” a pro-Philippines, pro-environment, pro-poor beauty and wellness products. GK is best known for its sweat equity scheme in providing mass housing.###

South Palms Resort Panglao marks 12.13.14

by Maria Eleanor E. Valeros, newmedia specialist

Contributed photo

PANGLAO ISLAND, BOHOL — A tough shift from retail to resort property development has led to prosperous outputs in just a year’s time. To underscore a year of success despite a series of natural calamities here in the Visayas Region, South Palms Resort Panglao threw a “First Anniversary” party to make raves of partners’ unwavering support and to dedicate the coming years to strengthen a regional market.

Says Fe Ginete, sales and marketing manager, that while Bohol properties and lives have suffered from the aftermath of a major earthquake and a super howler thereafter, South Palms was just at its soft opening phase at that time. “Kami ang nakaumang. So in a way we also directly suffered from loss of tourist arrivals. Di lang siguro that bad because we’re just about to start pa lang. That’s why we have so many people to thank for kay they came at a point when we needed them sooo badly.”

Thus, 12.13.14 was marked with overflowing food and drinks, live music-mixing featuring disc jockeys, fireworks display on a section of South Palms’ 700-meter beachfront. The event was graced by no less than Bohol Governor Ed Chatto, the Uy family that owns the Alturas Group of Companies, stakeholders, and media partners.

Ginete described how tough it was to to undertake a rebranding. South Palms’ 43-hectare property was part of the Bohol Beach Club of the Fonaciers from Ilocandia. The Uys acquired three-fourths of the said property.

“Mahirap kung sa mahirap ang pag-uusapan when it comes to rebranding kasi there’s that feeling na after you nurtured a certain brand, babaguhin mo lahat ng sinabi mo tungkol don. Parang snake na kinain sarili niyang buntot. Ganon. And of course the Uys are used to retail management – Alturas, Plaza Marcela, Island City Mall, two Colonnades in Cebu, nya resort property development lahi man gud na siya sa retail. Let’s put it this way: sa retail it’s like a sack of rice, buksan nimo, ilatag nimo, pagkahapon you have your returns. With resort, magtanom pa ka. You have to establish goodwill with your clients. You have to nurture them, attend to their needs. After-sales or after-service is the real customer care. Will they come back again? Will they take time to talk about our products and services to others? Will they recommend us? Ana man gud na. How much more if gi-rebrand? It’s very, very challenging.”

Ginete boasts of 65-percent occupancy of a total of 90 rooms. Guestroom types are the following: Deluxe Garden View, Deluxe Pool View, Deluxe Beachfront, Premium Beachfront, Beach Villa, South Palms Villa, and Panglao Villa. This writer found the Deluxe Beachfront accommodation perfect because of its fine amenities like shower enclosure, soft beds and pillows, a patio with portable stand for hanging wet beachwear, complimentary items like Peanut Kisses and tarsier blings that you can hang either from your bags or mobile phones. You can also take home the slippers. There’s a 32-inch LED TV, mini-bar, coffee maker and tea service, and Free Wi-Fi Access. The only glitch this writer encountered was the blank channels on Cable TV which she perceived to be triggered by reception problems.

Outside, my fellow media practitioners enjoyed most of the time the rectangular hammock. It’s a bed mounted on wooden rectangular frame, tied on ends to bamboos attached onto coconut palms. The typical hammock can only accommodate two at most and with room difficulty. But the rectangular hammock could carry up to six pax. We were like kids taking turns in swinging the hammock so the others can shout to the top of their lungs upon the joy that rocking and swaying can bring. Yes, because you can move it not only to and fro, but side to side as well.

Beforehand, we had a taste of Oceanica Blue at the Coat Pool Bar. It’s that shot of vodka’s character and fluidity with a jigger of curacao and calamansi puree. Then we combed the beachfront where we sat on bean bags scattered all over. An LPA was developing at that time east of Samar, but that night the sky afforded us a few stars – the Little Dipper most visible, and a pallor moon that’s about on her half-moon stage yet.

Ginete shared she might be too ambitious but she looks at an 11 to 15-percent target in tourist arrival growth and penetrate to its core the BPO sector because of the segment’s spending power and creative means to help promote South Palms. “Three more properties will be opening soon here, I know eight percent target is the safest. But I want to be ambitious about this because we take pride in our property. We are sure to create for our visitors wonderful memories here. We have the longest stretch of white sand beach, our reefs and dive sites are just a leisure walk away. We have the right staffing – a mix of veterans and young, dynamic people. We want the BPOs because of their strong knowledge on virtual commerce. And take note: We are just a Supercat trip or an Oceanjet away.”

Finally, the way a Bohol beach holiday should be!

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