Due to the extended influx of tourists, the closure of the Kalaklan Lighthouse Bridge was extended for another week and now planned to be closed on June 21, 2010. From a report by Henry Empeño of the Business Mirror
With rains now cooling and greening the previously parched landscape, tourist attractions here and in the neighboring areas of Olongapo City and Zambales continue to cash in on the last days of the summer tourism season.
Recent weeks saw hotels and beach resorts in this free port pack in thousands of guests who attended the two-day Kayak Explore Anvaya Cove-Subic Bay event, as well as the Just Go! Drive Philippines tour-caravan that showcased some of the best tourism destinations here.
Thousands of domestic and foreign tourists continue to swarm the area’s beaches and nature resorts that stretch along the coast of Zambales, from Olongapo City’s barangay Barretto in the south to Candelaria town’s Uacon cove up north.
“We’re still fully booked up to the last weekend of June,” said Dr. Emi Edejer, owner of the seaside resort Beach Hauz ni Doc at Sinabacan, Candelaria, about 180 kilometers north of Subic.
“Tourists continue to arrive despite the rains. And as long as schools are not yet open, we continue to expect more visitors,” he said.
Edejer also said more tourists are discovering quaint resorts in Zambales, since the province is now more accessible because of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, which has cut travel time from Manila to just a little over five hours.
Arlene de la Llana, a dentist who manages the family-owned Villa Ysmael beach resort at the village of Libertador, also in Candelaria, said that small, family-oriented beach resorts are?a favorite haunt of small groups, mostly families and barkadas?(groups of friends) coming from as far as Manila.
She said most of the tourists visit the nearby white-sand island of Potipot, but settle for the night at the beach resorts because the island had no rooms nor restaurants.
“As long as the summer lasts, Candelaria is alive and full of people. Of course, we like it because the locals earn well,” de la Llana said.
Meanwhile, because of the continuing influx of tourists, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) announced that it has further delayed the closure of the Kalaklan bridge, a 50-year old span linking this free port to tourism spots in Olongapo City and the province of Zambales.
According to SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza, Olongapo Mayor James Gordon Jr. personally interceded on behalf of local businessmen to postpone the bridge closure to allow?local tourism establishments to maximize their earnings during the summer season.
“Mayor Gordon wants this [bridge] project to go on smoothly because he really wants to improve the existing links between Olongapo and the free port,” Arreza said in a statement.
“So in deference to the mayor, we thought it best to give local businessmen a longer breathing spell and keep the bridge open while the summer season lasts.”
The SBMA official also said delaying the bridge closure for a while “will be a gesture of goodwill to local traders.” He added the SBMA counts on the Olongapo business community to be its partner “when the SBMA eventually extends the boundaries of the free port into the surrounding communities.”
Arreza said the SBMA had originally scheduled the closure of the Kalaklan bridge to vehicles in February and to pedestrians in March, to make way for the construction of a replacement for the “structurally weakened” span that was built by the US Navy about 50 years ago.
These schedules were moved, however, upon the request of Gordon, who asked that local traders be allowed to cash in on the peak tourism season this summer.
Despite the delay of the bridge’s closure, Arreza said work continues in preparation of the foundation for the replacement span, as well as other project components, including a security plaza and a Bureau of Customs office.