Monday, August 8, 2016

Clark Airport Under Investigation After Security Breach

A full-scale investigation is under way at Clark International Airport after a man was able to board a flight to Singapore without a passport or even a plane ticket. Airport officials are now under scrutiny following the security lapse.

Image Source: Clark International Airport
According to initial findings reported in the Philippine Inquirer, the intruder, who allegedly claimed to be looking for his wife, entered the terminal at approximately 1:10pm on August 3 through the arrival exit lobby door, having passed all of the security measures in place to ensure efficient screening of passengers at the airport. 

In the Inquirer's report, it was revealed that an unknown source stated that the man headed to the second floor to cross the passengers' boarding bridge to enter the aircraft, after having gained access through the exit door for arriving passengers. He was eventually caught by a flight attendant that asked to see his boarding pass. 

It is rumoured that this may be the second security breach at Clark International Airport this year. The first incident occurred last June, allegedly involving a foreigner. It remains unclear if the intruders were held for questioning or charged in either incident. 

In a memorandum released by Clark International Airport, Emigdio Tanjuatco III, President & CEO of Clark Airport, stated that the incident is completely unacceptable. "Considering that Clark International Airport implements strict security and safety procedures, such incident should not have occurred," said Tanjuatco. "The incident is intolerable as it has created an alarming event that dispels absolute security of the passengers and safety of the whole airport grounds."

Cebu Pacific Expands Routes in the Visayas & Bicol

Cebu Pacific, the nation's largest low-cost carrier, has announced several new routes designed to cater to the needs of passengers in the Visayas and Bicol. In the last month, the budget carrier has announced a number of new or expanded routes including Kalibo-Seoul, Cebu-Ormoc, Cebu-Calbayog, Cebu-Roxas, and Manila-Virac.

cebu pacific virac flights
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
Beginning October 1, Cebu Pacific will launch a daily flight between Kalibo and Seoul, Korea aboard its 180-seat Airbus A320 aircraft. According to Cebu Pacific officials, the new route is designed to create opportunities for travellers to explore some of Asia's most popular tourist destinations. 

"Cebu Pacific gears toward bringing travellers for business and leisure to magnificent countries at the lowest fare in the market," said JR Mantaring, Cebu Pacific's VP of Corporate Affairs. "The new Kalibo-Incheon route opens opportunities for passengers to explore must-see places in Incheon such as Wolmi-Do Island, Landing Memorial Hall, and Jeondeungsa Temple, among others."

The new non-stop flight between the Visayas and South Korea will complement Cebu Pacific's existing services to South Korea including daily flights to Seoul-Incheon from Cebu and Manila, and four weekly flights from Manila to Busan. The budget carrier recently revealed that South Korea is one of its largest short haul international markets.  "We will remain committed to exploring more routes to cater to more passengers and to beef up economic, trade, and tourism in this destination," added Mantaring.

Earlier this month, Cebu Pacific also announced the launch of three new domestic routes out of its hub in Cebu. Beginning on November 19, Cebu Pacific will launch new daily flights from Cebu to Ormoc and Cebu to Roxas. In addition, four-weekly flights between Cebu and Calbayog will be added. All flights will be operated by 72-seat ATR 72-500 aircraft. "With the additional routes in and out of Cebu, more guests can travel and visit scenic spots in the Visayas region," said Mantaring.

Meanwhile, travellers to Bicol will appreciate the added convenience of an additional frequency on Cebu Pacific's Manila to Virac route. The service, which is operated by a 156-seat Airbus A319 aircraft, will be increased to a total of five weekly flights. The new service is expected to boost connections in the Bicol region, complementing Cebu Pacific's existing flights from Manila and Cebu to Legazpi, and from Manila to Naga. 

Removal of Philippine Travel Tax Proposed

The Department of Tourism is exploring the possibility of removing or reducing the Philippine Travel Tax in an effort to make travel more affordable for Filipinos. At present, Philippine passport holders are assessed a tax of P1,620 for those seated in economy class, while first class passengers are charged P2,700. The tax is imposed on passengers leaving the Philippines irrespective of their destination. 
Image Source: The Poor Traveler
Citizens of the Philippines are required to pay the tax, along with foreign passport holders under special circumstances. However, the travel tax does not apply to all Filipinos and there are exemptions for overseas workers and permanent residents of other countries. In addition, a reduced travel tax is available to dependants of overseas Filipino workers.
According to Tourism Undersecretary Katherine De Castro, the Department is currently reviewing the travel tax system to identify if there is an opportunity to either reduce the tax or remove it altogether. 
"It still needs a lot of review. It's an ambitious part from the end of the DOT," said De Castro in an interview with the Philippine Star. "Travelling in the Philippines is not cheap. If we can't remove it totally, we want to at least lower it."
Proceeds of the travel tax are currently split between the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, the Commission on Higher Education, and the National Commission for Culture and Arts. "We're looking at the fact that a percentage of the travel tax goes to the Commission on Higher Education, which is in no way connected to travelling at all," added De Castro.
To date, the Department of Tourism has removed the P200 processing fee assessed for the issuance of Travel Tax Exemption and Reduced Travel Tax certificates, which came into effect on July 25. In addition, the Department would like to see the travel tax incorporated into airline tickets similarly to the passenger terminal fee at select airports in the Philippines.
De Castro noted that all carriers will be expected to incorporate the fee into their tickets, regardless if they are a full-service or low-cost carrier. "It's inconvenient in such a way that you think you're already checked in, but in fact, you are not, so you would still have to line up in another booth to pay for your travel tax."

Philippine Farm Tours in Tagaytay & Bulacan

One weekend last July, I participated in a conference on the potential of farm tourism in the Philippines. A tour of some popular farms in Tagaytay was included in the agenda. Our first stop was at a honeybee farm.


Before we got off the bus, we were instructed to be cooperative with the farm rules. If we are told not to touch anything or venture elsewhere, it will be for our health and well-being as some bees might sting us. And if we encountered a stingless bee, it might bite us---yes, bite us. 
 
tagaytay honey bee farm tour
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
By the way, “Anybody allergic to bees?” the guide wanted to know. No one said anything while I just mumbled under my breath, “We will soon find out…” 

tagaytay honey bee farm tour
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
This was the three-minute path that led us from the main entrance to the farm centre where the souvenir shop and museum are located. 

honeybee farm philippines
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
bee museum philippines
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
The son of the founder, who had just passed away, presented a video on the basics of honeybees and honey. With my short attention span, I quickly lost interest and wandered off outside the museum. 
  
how to raise bees philippines
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
honey bee farming manila
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
stingless bees manila
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
chicken crossing tagaytay
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
 That proverbial chicken...

I think it took about ten minutes for the video to end after which we were treated to raw honey. I did not participate as I was not really fond of honey.

philippine honey
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Afterwards, we were led to the souvenir shop.

honey philippines
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
bee propolis manila
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
honeycomb philippines
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
And that was the end of our tour which was a bit unsatisfactory because I expected some experiential bee farming. I was even ready to volunteer to don a beekeeper’s uniform to get close to the bees. When I expressed my disappointment to our local guide, I was told that our 1.5 hour allotted time could not accommodate anything else. But perhaps that may serve as a recommendation to the owners of the farm to offer a longer, upgraded tour for those who want a more hands-on experience.


Our next stop was exactly how I pictured a farm ready for tourism would look like---open spaces, lots of fields, vegetation, trees, some farm animals and of course, real farmers at work.

farm tour philippines
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
It was such a long walk from the entrance to the main farm area but the greenery was such a wonderful sight to a pair of eyes that was used to looking at ugly urban buildings in Metro Manila day in and day out.

farm tour tagaytay
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
farm tour tagaytay
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
farm tours tagaytay
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
farming in the philippines
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
visit farms philippines
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philippine farm tours
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
gourmet farm manila
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
gourmet farm manila
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
gourtmet farms tour
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Naturally, there was a souvenir shop where I uncharacteristically bought a lot of banaba tea after being given a free refreshing cup.


Paradizoo is similar to Gourmet Farm only it’s less “landscaped” and has a theme park feel with some unfortunate garden figurines, which took away some authenticity.

paradizoo philippines
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
flower garden philippines
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
vegetable farm manila
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
wood vinegar manila
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
hydroponics farming manila
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
By chance, the Bambike advocate, Bryan Benitez McClelland, was there to demonstrate his bamboo bike.
bamboo bike philippines
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
If there is a lack of further information about these farms, well, mea culpa. Although I love joining tours, I am not much to sticking around to listen as I prefer to take pictures. We had tour guides at Ilog Maria and Gourmet Farm but we were basically left on our own at Paradizoo.

If you want to follow our route, I suggest that you cover up because it’s mostly open space and wear sensible shoes. Bring water to drink and perhaps to splash on your face as well as all the walking especially under the heat of the sun can really be draining.


Weeks later, I was still starved for more farm tours that my friends and I went to Duran Farm in San Ildefonoso, Bulacan. We found this most satisfying.

farm tour bulacan
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Duran farm is open every day and we went there on a Sunday where we were met by Daisy, the owner herself who gave us a personal tour.  At first she was apologetic that since it was a Sunday, she had no staff to help us but after the tour, we definitely felt she had nothing to be sorry for as she shared with us her story of how she, an elementary graduate, started from selling fish balls to owning a farm that provided jobs and business to her local community.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
She got started with farming when she was invited to a training class at the Department of Agriculture and from then on, did not look back. Even her neighbors were inspired by her experience that they, too, started their own mini-farms.

farm tour bulacan
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
philippine farm tours
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Duran Farm is what an urban tourist expects from a farm tour---the experience to pick the harvest ourselves. And then of course, we paid by the pack or by weight. On weekdays, there is a restaurant at the farm that is open to cook your harvest.

To add to the owner’s hospitality, as the restaurant was closed on a Sunday and we were really hungry as we arrived around lunch time after a two-hour drive, she prepared boiled duck eggs for us. Admittedly, I was not impressed by the offer but after a bite, I had to stop myself with just two eggs for fear of my cholesterol shooting up. The eggs tasted so good and flavorful as a balut without the “icky” stuff so it’s good for foreigners to know how balut tastes like without feeling sick.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
bulacan farm tours
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
We had a choice of peppers, upo, calamansi, basil, squash, papaya, bananas, etc. to pick from.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
farm tours philippines
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
If you live in a crowded urban setting, Daisy will even show you how to do vertical farming so there is no excuse for you to not attempt a farming venture of your own in the city.

vertical farming manila
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
farm training philippines
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
And should you feel you need more training, she offers TESDA-accredited classes where you can come every day to her farm for classes….

farm stays philippines
Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
 ...or stay at these quaint lodges.

Copyright photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
They even have Wi-Fi! If you are interested in agri-tourism and you are looking for a farm stay in the Philippines, Duran Farm is a great choice! 

For information on how to get to these farms, just click on the links provided below:

---THE PARANOID TRAVELER---