The Department of Tourism Region VIII, together with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry – Eastern Visayas (PCCI-EV), launched the San Juanico Cruise in Tacloban City through a soft opening on November 5, 2015. Representatives from the Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Economic and Development Authority, LGU-Basey, LGU-Sta. Rita and the Samar Tourism Office graced the event. The San Juanico Cruise is a project that aims to boost tourism and provide livelihood opportunities, and consequently contribute to the economic growth of Eastern Visayas.

Mr. Oliver Cam, consultant from the Business Recovery Center of PCCI – EV said that this project is a multi-sectoral collaboration. The business sector and international non-government organizations like OXFAM provided fiber glass boats for the cruise. He expressed his excitement saying that after a series of attempts to launch the project, the dream of having a cruise in the city has finally been realized. With the soft opening, the management expects to solicit suggestions on how to improve the quality of the service of the cruise and what steps should be taken thereafter. Also, it was a chance to develop further partnership with the business sector from which additional funding support and investments opportunities will mostly come.

The cruise features the refreshing sight of the surrounding bays and the picturesque San Juanico Strait and Bridge. The route of the cruise starts from downtown area in Tacloban City then under the majestic San Juanico Bridge. The 2.1-km bridge is the longest bridge in the country spanning a body of water. Stations will also be put in place to showcase the different sceneries in the area. Floating restaurants are also planned to be put up in every station. The duration of the trip would take more or less two hours. In the future, they hope to extend the cruise to as far as Babatngon, the next town to Tacloban.

The project launch also hoped to provide alternative livelihood for the victims of Yolanda, especially the fisherfolks from the nearby barangays who were badly affected by the typhoon. It can help them earn additional income or at least compensate for the daily needs of their respective families.

The sustainability, however, remains a challenge according to Mr. Cam, and that would depend on the support of stakeholders. He said that if everything goes as planned, they hope to officially operate next year.

Ruel T. Bugnos, YPMO, NEDA VIII