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Gov. Salceda, Drew Arellano lead PH 'Tourism Stars'.

For driving the tourism industry forward and proving that it is indeed more fun in the Philippines, the Department of Tourism on Thursday night honored its first ever set of Tourism Stars led by Albay Governor Joey Salceda.

In a ceremony held at the Raffles Hotel in Makati, the DOT led by Secretary Ramon J. Jimenez conferred the awards on the first batch of individuals including media personalities and tourism workers for their contributions to the tourism industry.

"The Tourism Star Philippines Awards is established as a platform for the DOT of the Republic of the Philippines to hold up people who will serve as powerful inspiration for anyone who wants to do well in the tourism industry," Jimenez said in his opening speech.

Others in the roster of awardees apart from Salceda are Gerry Bie Dalimag, an 18yearold college student serving his hometown as a local volunteer guide; and Bobby Adrao, a dive master in Donsol, Sorsogon who went beyond his call of duty to save the lives of two Australian couple who went adrift in the rough seas while diving.

Television host Drew Arellano of Biyahe ni Drew in GMA7 and Anton Diaz, blogger and creator of the website Our Awesome Planet, were chosen for the media category.

"This first ever Tourism Star Philippines Awards is itself inspired by the overwhelming enthusiasm of the Filipino people for building a more dynamic, more inclusive tourism industry for our country," Jimenez said.

Governor Salceda won the award in the local chief executive category after having led the province's "phenomenal growth in tourism" from the ruins of disasters that had stunned the province for decades.

"As former economic adviser to previous presiders, Governor Salceda has successfully implemented a comprehensive tourism work in Albay, bringing to fore various regulations and investment projects," the DOT said in a statement.

In 2007, Salceda initiated a comprehensive tourism work plan that had boosted the tourism industry and subsequently generated jobs. He also gained international recognition for its AlbayMasbateSorsogon (Almasor) Tourism Alliance.

As a result, Albay became a "worldclass tours destination," having hosted international conventions such as the United Nations World Tourism OrganizationAssociation of Southeast

Asian Nations (UNWTOAsean) International Conference on Tourism and Climate Change in 2014.

It was also supposed to host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation's Informal Senior Officials Meeting last December, but the event was moved to Manila due to the approaching typhoon.

Dalimag, on the other hand, spent his youth helping the local tourism industry of Cagayan as volunteer guide around the famous Callao Caves as he tried to earn a living for himself and his father. A bystander in the area, Dalimag with other three kids was trained by the local government to do a cave guiding.

The only one who stayed and continued doing cave guiding, Dalimag is now on his second year at the university taking BS Tourism.

All the awardees received trophies, medals and gifts from DOT's partners including a preloaded More Fun prepaid card from the Bank of the Philippine Islands, scholarship from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), phones and tablets from MyPhone, and kabuhayan package from Duty Free Philippines.

The province of Albay, meanwhile, received P1 millionworth of communitybased tourism projects.

"Kung warm nga kami sa bagyo, lalo na siguro sa tourists. Ibig sabihin, if we are tolerant with these hostile forces; we will be more warm and hospitable to our friends and to our tourists", Salceda said after accepting the award.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Feb 14, 2015
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