Caracoles Samal Fest another election casualty?

The May 2010 election has resulted to various controversies from the lost friendships to the termination of the 86 City Hall-hired Commission on Election employees. The latest casualty of the election heat is a major tourism event which is expected to bring in revenues for some areas in the Davao Region including the Island Garden City of Samal and Davao City.
The yearly Caracoles Samal Festival, which is regularly held during the last Saturday of April every year, has been postponed from the original April 24 schedule to the May 21 to 23 this year.

“We are postponing the Caracoles Festival not because we were refused a permit but because we do not want politics to mar the celebration this year,” Caracoles Samal 2010 Marketing Director Jonallier M. Perez said. He added they do not want the Caracoles Festival to be muddled by the various election issues so the Davao del Norte Provincial Tourism Council and the Caracoles Samal 2010 Executive Committee are moving the Festival after the May 10 election.
IGaCoS Mayor Aniano Antalan called a press conference two weeks ago and said he did not give a permit to the holding of the Caracoles Festival this April “kasi baka magamit lang sa eleksyon.” Antalan was referring to Regional Tourism Council secretary Araceli Ayuste, one of the convenors of the Caracoles Festival. Antalan belongs to the Lakas-CMD while Ayuste, who is running for a seat in Davao del Norte, belongs to the Liberal Party.

In a letter dated February 20, IGACOS City Administrator Cleto Gales, Jr. turned down the application of Perez for a permit to conduct the Caracoles Festival in barangay Penaplata on April 23 to 25 since the city “has not included the Caracoles as one of its 2010 Festival Celebrations, as they expected it to be held in Davao City” where it was held last year.

Antalan said proper coordination was made with the local government of IGaCoS when Caracoles was started six years ago. The local government even contributed a counterpart amount as well as logistical support when it was first staged in Babak District, he added.

The original plan was to hold the Festival alternately in Babak, Samal and Kaputian, but the Department of Tourism staged it at the Waterfront Insular Hotel on the second year, and at the Sta. Ana Wharf last year.

“Substantial coordination from you with the city government, more than just a matter of protocol, should have been properly observed,” Gales said. Further in his letter, he said that the city government should have been involved during the planning, arrangement and preparation for the festival celebration.

The IGaCoS City Council said the Caracoles Festival is a private sector initiative that showcases the island’s creative culture through street dancing, beach sports competition, concerts and fashion showcases.

Perez said the local government of Davao del Norte has allocated P500 thousand for the Caracoles Festival. The private sector has however raised more money for the event, he added.

The money allocated for the Caracoles is however cost effective, the City Council admitted, since it is one way of promoting the island city as a tourism destination and attracting more investments in order to uplift the local government’s stability.
But even if the Caracoles Festival has been postponed after the elections, the city is already set to lose several opportunities that would have made the island more attractive to expatriates and foreigners.

This month’s celebration of the Caracoles Festival would have coincided with the Silver Anniversary celebration of the Philippine Retirement Authority. PRA planned to bring in a hundred or so expatriates to the island during the Festival, to promote Samal as a destination for foreign retirees.

“Yes the celebration is affected by the postponement so we decided to shelve the celebration and instead invite people to the head office for the anniversary celebration on June 23,” PRA regional chief Jaime Llames said.

Ayuste earlier said the Caracoles Festival mean more income for the various resorts in Samal since all their food and drinks went out of stock as early as 8 in the evening during the previous year when the Festival was held in Samal.

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