The Province of Ilocos Norte is set to reopen their tourist destinations in October as part of the “Ridge to Reef” travel corridor that also includes Baguio City, Pangasinan, La Union, and Ilocos Sur. Although there will only be a select number of tourist sites per province and the number of visitors would be limited, these measures in the travel bubble would help ensure the safe, seamless, and gradual reopening of tourism in the better normal. According to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, the plan for the “Ridge to Reef” tourism program is worth following in other domestic tourist destinations.
Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture Group are grateful for the opportunity to once again work with the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte, which is now led by Governor Matthew Marcos-Manotoc, for the development of the Metro Ilocos Norte Master Development Plan (MINMDP). The contract was awarded to Palafox back in December last year. The plan includes tourism development principles and concepts that have been used for the reopening of the Province’s tourism destinations.
In 2010, Palafox helped conceptualize the Master Tourism Development Plan of Ilocos Norte that helped elevate conventional tourism for sustainable and positive change. At that time, several tourism assets were identified that shaped the Province’s socio-economic development and helped sustain its natural treasures as a contemporary tourism hub at par with global trends. These comprised, among others, the Laoag International Airport, Plaza del Norte, Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, Pasuquin Mangroves, Cape Bojeador, Paoay Sand Dunes, Paoay Lake, Paoay Church Complex, and Batac City Plaza. The plan helped produce promising results in the Province. Recorded visitors grew from 260,000 in 2012 to more than 2 million in 2016, poverty rates were reduced from 24% in 2010 to 8.4% in 2017, the Province’s economy grew 16.7% in 2013 to 2014, and the unemployment rate dropped from 37% in 2010 to 4.2%, among others.
This year, for the ongoing development of the MINMDP, “ridge to reef” principles were applied that cover priority sites in mountain areas up to the shores of Ilocos Norte. The priority areas selected by the technical working group alongside Governor Marcos-Manotoc were Laoag City Center, Paoay Lake National Park, Malacañang of the North, Ilocos Norte Sand Dunes, Badoc Gateway, La Virgen Milagrosa Cove, Kapurpurawan Geo and Renewable Energy Park, Saud Municipal Beach, and the Solsona-Apayao Scenic Mountain Drive. The MINMDP’s overall goals are to ensure the Province’s sustainable tourism growth while minimizing social and environmental impacts.
Because of Ilocos Norte’s immense natural treasures and rich history and heritage, the MINMDP applies a wide variety of tourism development concepts. These include sustainable tourism, architectural tourism, educational and research tourism, heritage tourism, agritourism, ecotourism, mountain and forest tourism, culinary tourism, enotourism, geotourism and desert tourism, and health and wellness tourism, among others. These go hand in hand with a COVID-19 business continuity and recovery plan for tourism that is part of the MINMDP. These priority areas were chosen with the objectives of preserving their existing environmental conditions, improving public amenities and architectural styles, establishing zoning of activities and development, and enhancing public access and connectivity among the sites. With the MINMDP, the Province of Ilocos Norte hopes to obtain positive results in terms of safely reopening its tourist destinations, further developing additional tourism service areas and products, providing more economic opportunities, and becoming a resilient and globally competitive region.