ALAMINOS CITY, PANGASINAN, March 29, 2006 (MALAYA) BY DENNIS GADIL - A colorful parade marked the start of the city’s redevelopment of the Hundred Islands, making it the prime attraction for homecoming natives.

Alaminos City Mayor Hernani Braganza, former agrarian reform chief and press secretary of President Arroyo said the Hundred Islands Fiesta started last March 19 in honor of the city’s patron saint, St. Joseph.

This year’s celebration was decidedly dedicated to the city’s senior citizens who have chosen to live elsewhere but would go back every year for the fiesta.

The city hopes to mobilize their cash-rich balikbayans to help the city in its quest to become a Metro Alaminos in the next ten years with the Hundred Islands as the number one economic driver.

Braganza said they hope to lure in some 250,000 tourists this year who will visit the Hundred Islands Marine Park and bring in sales amounting to P1 billion in the next three years.

Last year, the city hosted some 150,000 local and foreign tourists, which was a feat itself considering that it never got to more than 50,000 when the Hundred Islands was still under the control of national government through the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA).

Braganza’s first order of business when he took over as city mayor in 2004 was to get back the Hundred Islands from the PTA.

Since then tourist arrivals had risen by 30 percent per year on average.

The new city leaders also banned fishing and prohibited the setting-up of fish cages within and around the Hundred Islands to preserve the marine park’s fragile ecology.

Existing facilities in the developed islands like Quezon Island and Governor’s Island were improved but only collapsible and eco-friendly materials were used. Nowadays, a family of tourists could stay overnight in the cottages built on the developed islands.

The city plans to energize the islands by solar power. The city, however, has to build more facilities. It is estimated that room shortage is as high as 500.

At the waterfront of Alaminos overlooking the serene Hundred Islands, only a few of the many hotels still stand including Maxine’s, the PTA Bathhouse and the old 100 Hundred Islands Hotel. Braganza said he is encouraging the building of new hotels.

The city has also hired the services of a top architectural firm to help rezone the city and decongest and depollute Alaminos and the Hundred Islands.

For the Hundred Islands, the city government has invited private groups to provide additional amenities and offer other attractions like "parasailing, scuba-diving and kayaking."

Braganza said they are also studying the feasibility of connecting the major islands through glass-tube channels wherein visitors could do island-hopping by just strolling underneath the islands, using the glass tubes.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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