By Keith Anthony S. Fabro
Bataraza’s tourism industry is expecting a boost from the celebration of its 1st Pineapple Festival that will feature pineapple products and fun-filled activities from July 15 to 18.
“With this first-ever Pineapple Festival, we expect it will help boost our tourism industry by attracting more people to visit our town,” said Bataraza tourism officer Junaide Dawili.
“We, tourism officers in the south, are strategizing to divert the attention of tourists to southern Palawan. And this festival is one of our strategies. We want them (tourists) to ‘go down south,’” he added.
Among the highlights of the four-day festival are the heritage center inauguration, float parade, pineapple cooking contest, tribal games, street dancing, and the awarding of outstanding pineapple farmers.
Currently, Bataraza has an annual average tourist arrivals of 30,000, and is one of the towns in southern Palawan mostly visited by tourists, records show. Located 225 kilometers south of Puerto Princesa City, it is frequented for its stunning falls, caves and islands.
“If we can’t surpass the destinations in northern Palawan [in terms of tourist arrival], at least we can match them…Right now, we have 30,000 tourists annually, but we’re aiming for around 100,000 in the years to come,” said Bataraza mayor Abraham Ibba.
Bataraza has almost 600 hectares of pineapple plantations. Barangay Bulalacao, as the town’s pineapple production powerhouse, will greatly benefit from the festival’s promotion of pineapples.
“It will positively impact the community, because once we’ve become a tourist spot, it would give us another income,” said Bulalacao captain Jose Rey Ortiz.
Ortiz added the expected growth of local pineapple industry will particularly help the barangay’s 500 pineapple farmers who are mostly Pala’wan indigenous group members.
In Barangay Bulalacao, Coral Bay Nickel Corporation (CBNC) has funded the ongoing development of a one-hectare pineapple trade center where tourists can buy pineapples, processed pineapple products, and native souvenirs.
“Why we’ve chosen Bulalacao? Because it is the barangay with the widest pineapple plantations that produce the sweetest pineapples in town,” said CBNC community relation officer Fe Peralta.
The center’s main attraction is the 14.7-meter pineapple landmark with three floors that will serve as a gallery that showcases the mining firm’s best practices. This structure, made of metal and glass, has an initial budget of P8.7 million.
“Why we have this structure is because we want to draw the attention of all concerned agencies to support the farmers and the pineapple industry that will help [uplift the economy of] Bataraza,” added Peralta.
Peralta said the center is expected to be finished this July and will soon be turned over to the barangay after capacitating the community on managing the center’s facilities.