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Thursday, September 7, 2017

TRAVEL ADVISORY: Stay Away from Apo Reef or Travel at Your Own Risk

I am sharing the experience ee had in Apo Reef last May so that reader will know. Yes, I was finally able to set foot on Apo Reef on 2nd attempt but it was also ruined thanks partly to the unaccommodating and unsympathetic local tourism office of Sablayan Occidental Mindoro to which Apo Reef is part of.

KNOW THIS: 
Due to recent DENR resolution, only 100 pax per day are allowed to camp in Apo Reef.

That's where the problem could start since the reef system is a popular tourist attraction. So if you don't secure your permit prior to arrival, you can only day tour here regardless if you traveled halfway around the world just to get here. We were a group of around 30 pax mostly from Manila and it took us something like 16 hours to get here so you can just imagine our frustration.

I am not passing all the blame on the local tourism office of Sablayan. Surely, outlr our group tour organizer and our local ( Sablayan resident) partner were mostly at fault but I feel that the tourism office should have been there to facilitate our tour but they made it harder for us instead. For that, I expressed my wrath during the call when they convened for an emergency meeting as a result of my incident report letter slash complaint.

TO THE LOCAL TOURISM OFFICE OF SABLAYAN
Thank you for almost ruining our vacation. Pero sablay kayo. You cannot stop happy peeps from having fun. But still you caused us inconvenience. This one is for you.

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LETTER OF COMPLAINT

Attn: Municipal Tourism Office
Sablayan Occidental Mindro


This is concerning the unfavorable incident that our group experienced on our trip to Sablayan and Apo Reef both located in Occidental Mindoro on Saturday-Sunday, May 27-28, 2017

Whereas; we were a group of 27 pax mostly from Metro Manila and nearby provinces under the leadership of Matt David.

Whereas; our contact in Sablayan is a local named Ms Desiree Arizala or Des.

Whereas; we have already forwarded our names to Ms Desiree prior to our arrival so as to help us secure our permit for an overnight stay in Apo Reef and she informed us that everything is set.

Whereas; it was only on the day of our arrival that we learned that only DENR has signed the contract/ permit to set sail for Apo Reef and not the Municipal Tourism Office.


Whereas; we were told by Ms Desiree that she has been forwarding that letter to the Municipal Tourism Office but they refused to accept it.

Whereas; we learned that Ms Desiree was banned by the Municipal Tourism Office to engage in any tour-related transaction but the former denied it as she has not received any formal letter to that effect,

Whereas; our group had no other means but to work on our permit only upon arrival,

Whereas; the one assigned at the Municipal Tourism Office at around 8:00-9:30am, Saturday, May 27, was unaccommodating of our leader that she made him wait for more than an hour and but eagerly arranged for permit of a group of foreigners first who came later than us.

Whereas; all other members of the team were on the boat by the port and we waited from 7:00- 9:30am.

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Whereas; our leader was even told “we don’t need tourists, we actually regulate tourists” and learning about that made me decide to take action as I see it an attitude unworthy of a tourism officer.

Whereas; our leader was told Apo Reef was fully booked on that day but refused to be transparent in showing the log book to show proof.

Whereas; we were finally given a permit to set for Apo Reef but only on a day trip.

Whereas; all members of the group were so disappointed learning about this since everybody was expecting an overnight stay.

Whereas; we requested those in charge of reception (Park Rangers) at Apo Reef to consider our situation and allow us to stay overnight if possible.

Whereas; we were told that if by 3:00 pm Saturday, May 27, the quota of 100 pax for overnight stay was not met then we could be allowed to stay overnight.

Whereas; by 3:00 pm, we were told that the quota was not maxed out and we could stay as long as all 3 of our boat captains will concur.

Whereas; one of the captains of our boats refused to stay overnight due to the directive by the tourism office that he go back to Sablayan on the same day due to a next day trip booking arranged by the Municipal Tourism Office.

Whereas; during our negotiation with the Park Rangers in Apo Reef, a guy who identified himself as somebody from Municipal Tourism Office made radio contact to give order that our group should go back to mainland as our permit is only for a day tour.

Whereas, one of the park rangers mentioned our plight and asked if our request could be granted but the man from the Municipal Tourism Office insisted with cold voice that we go back and not stay overnight.

Whereas; our group had to set sail back to Pandan Island in the dark of the night and in the midst of a thunderstorm which if wind direction should have been unfavorable could have jeopardized the safety of our group.

Whereas; as a travel blogger in the team I feel that I have the responsibility to point out the shortcoming of the Municipal Tourism Office to us.

Whereas; we are not sure if the accounts of our local contact Ms. Desiree were true and we also blame her for all the inconveniences that this has set on our tour but we also want to direct our anger and frustration to the Municipal Tourism Office for being very unsympathetic of our situation.

Whereas; of all concerned stakeholders, it should have been the Municipal Tourism Office that helped us fix the situation but they were so indifferent and insensitive to us that we felt they found ways to make things more complicated instead of helping us find ways.

Whereas; if Apo Reef is only a few kilometers away from Manila, we should have easily accepted to go back and schedule another visit next time.

Whereas; I would like to commend the park rangers assigned in Apo Reef that day because they were understanding of our effort to go as far as Apo Reef and spend time and money to do so and they even said they are sorry they have to execute the order by the Municipal Tourism Office. They said goodbye to us with a heavy heart.

Whereas; I am planning to blog about this incident to draw attention to the lack of coordination in the LGU, Municipal Tourism Office and tour operators in Sablayan, either licensed or underground, that could ruin the vacation of other tourists, so that future visitors will be aware of the possible headache that they could encounter.

Whereas; if Sablayan Occidental Mindoro/ Apo Reef is this unwelcoming, me as a travel blogger and my friends who organize tours would rather take our groups to other destinations in the Philippines that are more accommodating.


Whereas; I hope the Municipal Tourism Office of Sablayan Occidental Mindoro does not forget that aside from making sure that Apo Reef is secure from the uncontrolled flow of tourists that could damage the park’s habitat, it also their mandate to help tourist make the best out of their stay and not ruin their vacation.


Signed this 30th day of May 2017 in Mandaluyong City Metro Manila, Philippines.


Sincerely,
Antonio M. Carranza Jr
Travel Blogger
www.pusangkalye.net
email: pakaleklalawak@yahoo.com


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