ORMOC CITY – Congresswoman Lucy Torres-Gomez, who was guest speaker at the opening rites of the 9th Regional Technical Conference of the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE) on September 14, Thursday, has chal-lenged the civil engineers to design and con-struct climate-resilient and earthquake-proof buildings so that there would be no disruption to efforts of the country to improve its tourism industry. Congresswoman Lucy Torres-Gomez is the House chair of the Tourism Committee. She aligned her speech to the conference’s theme: “Civil Engineering Facing the Challenges of the Tourism Industry in Advancing Countryside Economic Development.”

Some 650 civil engineers registered for the conference, a good number of them government engineers. She said that the tourism industry in the coun-try has “come a long way” and that compared to the past years, “it is no longer a monochromatic in-dustry” simply referred to as “tourism industry”. “Now, it is fashionable to speak of eco tourism, medical tourism, sports tourism, cruise tourism, farm tourism,” she said, noting that there is even RA 10816 or the Farm Tourism Law. Hence, she said, it was imperative that civil engineers think of climate change resilient and earthquake proof infrastructure so that the government’s infrastructure efforts would not be reduced from “build, build, build” to “rebuild, rebuild, rebuild.” The congresswoman cited as example the earthquakes that hit Ormoc in July and August, destroying infrastructures like school buildings were constructed after the region was hit by supertyphoon Yolanda in 2013.

The congresswoman was referring to the school buildings constructed by ABS-CBN Foundation in Lim-ao, Kananga and PAGCOR in Bagong, Ormoc which had been condemned because it posed danger to the students. She said that “our economic progress would also be described as making ‘one step backward’ for every ‘two steps forward’ if the same will be allowed to happen. “We wouldn’t get far with this kind of development paradigm,” she pointed out. The congresswoman said that the Philippine goal in tourism is modest. Accordingly, some 1.2 billion people worldwide travel to tourist destinations. The country only targets to get 10 million foreign tourists of that number, and 60 million domestic travellers. The numbers may seem modest, she said, but its economic impact is huge. That is why, she said, people in the engineering industry are needed to introduce interventions “that could touch base with the tourism industry, in particular, and the national economy, in general.” She also called upon the engineers to help restore damaged old churches and other historic edifices, including reinforcing bridges that lead to tourist destinations. She added that “in a more pro-active sense”, the engineers can conceptualize and implement so-called “green structures” to reduce carbon footprint. For her part, she said, she has started this initiative by recommending new designs for classrooms or school buildings in the Leyte 4th district that minimizes the use of electric power, and encourages the entry of natural light and the breeze. She also informed the body that she has filed a bill providing the establishment of a Tourism Resiliency Program, and asked them to help craft the mechanism to implement the initiative.

“What we need is a roadmap that would provide the clearest directions and incorporating the best practices in the global tourism industry. We need also to strike a delicate balance between the urge to earn much needed revenues and the preservation of our heritage and the environment.” In parting, Congresswoman Gomez congratulated Engr. Lino Gonzales, Leyte 4th district engineer, for being “very efficient and purpose driven.”

She said that as a neophyte solon in 2010, she posed the challenge to him to become the best performing district in the region, and he did it. “It was a first in the history of Leyte 4.” Now, she pointed out, the 4th district is already ISO certified, the first in the whole region. By LMJ



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