British Airways offers relief flight to the Philippines

British Airways (BA), the UK’s national airline, has offered aid agencies a relief aircraft to fly emergency aid and supplies to the Philippines following the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan.

A Boeing 747 freighter with capacity for up to 120 tonnes of cargo is scheduled to fly out to the stricken country on Monday, November 18.

The aircraft will carry aid from Oxfam, Save the Children, The Reina Sofia Foundation and UNICEF to provide relief to the worst affected regions of the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded, leaving thousands dead and millions more affected.

The British Airways Boeing 747 freighter aircraft will fly from IAG Cargo’s base at Stansted, loaded with supplies from the named charities, to Billund in Denmark. Supplies from UNICEF will be loaded onto the aircraft and it will then collect further supplies from Sharjah in the UAE, before going on to its final destination of Cebu in the Philippines. The relief cargo will include six tonnes of medicines donated by the Reina Sofia Foundation in collaboration with Normon Laboratories, with materials including antibiotics, analgesics and anaesthetics.

Keith Williams, British Airways’ chief executive, said: ‘The impact of Typhoon Haiyan has had a devastating impact on the people of the Philippines and their situation is desperate. British Airways is providing a fully crewed Boeing 747 freighter to fly urgently needed supplies to help those most in need. It’s vital we play our part to do what we can to support the international rescue effort and come to the aid of the millions of people caught up in this terrible crisis.’

Jane Cocking of Oxfam, said: ‘Oxfam’s teams are already on the ground and delivering aid to some of the worst affected areas. But we urgently need to bring more supplies in and this British Airways flight will enable us to do just that, helping us to provide emergency supplies and shelter to thousands of people who are in desperate need.’

Robbie McIntyre, humanitarian officer at Save the Children said: ‘This flight provides us with an invaluable opportunity to get vital water, sanitation and hygiene supplies to those in the most desperate need. We are sending equipment that will be able to provide over 310,000 litres of safe drinking water as well as equipment to support sanitary toilet facilities. During disasters such as this it’s always a challenge to get equipment of this type into the areas of most need, so we are hugely grateful to British Airways for giving us space on this flight.’

Additionally, from December 9 to December 31, customers on all British Airways flights will be invited to make donations and give spare change, the money will be given to the Disaster Emergencies Committee.

Clark Freeport to promote ghost tourism

Authorities in Clark Freeport, Philippines, are planning to convert a former US military base into a tourist destination for those seeking encounters with ghosts.

Reports of ghost sightings and certain unexplained events have earned the base a reputation for being haunted. In addition, it has been the setting for many violent deaths, and locals believe that spirits still roam the area. With its popularity rising as a ghost-tourism destination, Clark Freeport officials are now looking to cash in on the publicity and develop the area even more for its tourist potential.

The base has all the elements to provide the eerie ambience that is essential for ghost tourism. An old abandoned hospital, a group of pine trees known as Tres Marias, the Lily Hill and the old cemetery add a level of spookiness to the place. These sites are reputed to be among the most haunted in Clark Freeport, where the American cavalry forces were first stationed in 1901. During World War II, many American and Japanese soldiers died there.

Guy Hilbero, Mabalacat City tourism chief, said that tourists visit the site hoping to see ghosts and to soak up the numerous macabre stories that abound. At certain times of the year, such as All Saints Day, the venue becomes even more popular.

Hilbero said that a former site of an old cemetery within the grounds of the Mimosa Leisure Estate was one of the most haunted places on the site. The abandoned US military hospital near the commercial area is also believed to be haunted, and has already been visited by American ghost hunters who featured the story on a US television show. The hospital’s basement was used as a morgue for American soldiers killed during the Vietnam War before they were flown back to the US.

Hilbero also said that the Tres Marias, three pine trees, is a site where unexplained motor accidents happen regularly. The Lily Hill was the scene of a bloody firefight between Japanese and Americans during World War II, and people claim to have witnessed unusual activities there, which they attribute to spirits.

 

Cordillera offering attractions to suit visitors’ needs

The highland Cordillera region in the Philippines is offering various attractions for travellers to suit different tastes and preferences.

The importance of the region and the various options that it has to offer were recently highlighted in the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Travel Mart 2012 event, which drew foreign travel agencies from various countries. Travel agents from different nations said that they were looking to bring more customers from their respective countries to the Cordillera region to explore the various attractions that the region had to offer.

Purificacion Molintas, director of the Department of Tourism, said that agencies from nations such as Zimbabwe, France, Greece, China and the Middle East were looking to bring more tourists to the region. Molintas said that the Cordillera region had different attractions that suited different nationalities. For example, the French preferred to enjoy long vacations at the Baguio-Sagada-Banaue areas, while the Greeks were interested in exploring cultural and art offerings that the region had to offer. Local arts and crafts, including handicrafts, woodcarvings and paintings by local artists, were therefore a hit with the Greeks. The Chinese are not specific and prefer to mix business with travel, and were found to be mostly free and independent travellers who were interested in sports activities. Tourists from the Middle East usually prefer the cold and wet weather in the region, particularly in Baguio City and Sagada town in Mt. Province. Molintas said that the region had enough potential to cater to all of these diverse needs.

The recent PATA Travel Mart 2012 is an annual travel trade event, and over the years has attracted hundreds of international buyers and sellers of tourism products and services from all over the globe.

Imelda Marcos’ gem collection to become a tourist attraction

If plans to showcase the gem and jewellery collection of Imelda Marcos go ahead as planned, they could soon become an attraction for tourists from far and wide.

The sequestered jewels of the former first lady of the Philippines are now lying in the lockers of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the central bank of Philippines. They are divided into three collections with each collection averaging about 300 high-value jewellery pieces. It is not just the value of the jewels or their sheer number that is expected to draw the crowds, but rather the notoriety of Imelda Marcos and everything that has a link to her extravagant lifestyle.

Recently, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) asked the tourism department to exhibit the jewellery before it was sold in a planned auction. The items could be displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, which is situated close to the central bank building. The tourism department has reacted positively to the idea that the gems and jewellery would attract curiosity, despite the fact that the department is already making plans in response to a proposal by international auction house, Sotheby’s, which has expressed an interest in auctioning off the collections.

Rough estimates have put the value of the jewellery at between $10m and $20m, but that price could go up because of the reputation that its owner once enjoyed.

Many of the pieces were seized in transit when the former president of the nation, Ferdinand Marcos, escaped to Honolulu at the height of the Edsa People Power Revolution in 1986. His wife, Imelda, had taken them with her and US customs authorities seized them. However, a large proportion of the highly priced jewels were left behind when the couple fled in haste.

In December 1965, when Ferdinand E. Marcos became the 10th President of the Philippines, Imelda became the country’s first lady. They were in power until 1986.

Philippines plans fun events for PTM 2012 delegates

The Department of Tourism and Tourism Promotions Board of the Philippines have announced new attractions for delegates that are attending the PATA Travel Mart (PTM2012).

The two departments said that they have created exclusive tour itineraries for delegates who are planning to attend the event, which is to be hosted in Manila, Philippines between September 25 and September 28.

It was announced that the tours would either be complementary or discounted, and each tour is claimed to offer in-depth insight into the natural resources, heritage and culture of the Philippines. The packages will also offer a lot of fun features.

PATA CEO, Martin J Craigs, said, ‘It is exciting for PATA to return to Manila, the birthplace of the first ever PATA Travel Mart in 1978. PTM is a great platform to showcase its national campaign, It’s more fun in the Philippines. After the Mart, we want buyers, sellers and media get out and about and experience the many wonderful things that the Philippines have to offer.’

The tours will consist of a pre-complimentary half-day visit to Old and New Manila.

Visitors to Old Manila can visit Rizal Park and historic Fort Santiago, a Spanish bastion known for its World War II lineage. The bastion also contains memorabilia of Philippine’s national hero, Dr Jose Rizal. They can also visit Intramuros, the original city founded by the Spaniards centuries ago, and they can explore the National Museum that houses natural history exhibits and prehistoric ethnic collections.

Delegates taking the New Manila tour will visit Nayong Pilipino where they can acquaint themselves with various kinds and breeds of orchids. They can also watch a cultural presentation by the lagoon featuring Muslim dances. This tour will also cover the business district, Makati, and the Ayala Museum, which is known for its handcrafted dioramas. The museum also houses exhibits that depict the earliest Filipino settlements and the national struggle for independence.

 

Philippines Bus Hijacking Results in ‘Code Black’ Hong Kong Travel Ban

Following a disastrous hostage crisis, Hong Kong has banned its citizens from travelling to the Philippines. The special territory, which is controlled by its own government, has set an alert to warn travellers of the potential dangers associated with travelling in the country. HK citizens in Manila have been advised to return home – advice that many have taken swift action on.

Eight tourists from Hong Kong were killed during a bus hijacking in the city, after a disgruntled former police officer took control of a tour bus and executed its passengers. Manila’s police force was slow to act on the crisis, with a hostage team allowing the gunman to open fire on the Hong Kong tourists before moving in on the bus and freeing the remainder of its passengers.

Hong Kong’s ‘code black’ travel warning has yet to be repeated in other countries, although several embassies have warned against travel within Manila. While the Philippines has a violent reputation, insurgencies and terrorist acts are rare in the capital. The vast majority of the nation’s violence can be traced to political and religious tensions in its southern regions.

Residents of the Philippines have observed a day of mourning, with politicians throughout the city of Manila acknowledging that police action against the gunman was too slow. Survivors have since returned to Hong Kong, where they were privately escorted back to their homes following a special charter flight from Cathay Pacific.

The country’s multi-billion dollar tourism industry is likely to suffer, as Mainland China warned its citizens not to travel to the Philippines. The nation’s leader – President Benigno Aquino – met with Chinese officials based in the country to discuss an investigation into the incident, which is likely to explain the inaction of police and counter-terrorism groups within the city.