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Sulu, Tawi-Tawi Promoted As Tourist Destinations

Sulu, Tawi-Tawi Promoted As Tourist Destinations
Photo from the Sulu Provincial Tourism Office’s Facebook page

The Philippine Global Explorers (PGE) – a Filipino global travel community – recently teamed up with the local government and tourism offices in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to promote Sulu and Tawi-Tawi as tourist destinations.

Through “Project Sulu,” 17 foreign travelers from the Most Traveled People (MTP) and Extreme Traveler International Congress (ETIC) visited Sulu and Tawi-Tawi from Feb. 22 to 26.

PGE chairman and president Riza Rasco said the project seeks “to embolden Sulu in its efforts to bring itself to the forefront of Philippine and international tourism,” noting a marked improvement in peace and order “owing to the ongoing good work of the AFP in their ‘Fight for Peace.’”

Several countries have existing travel advisories for Sulu, which they said is unsafe due to terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgent groups.

According to the PGE, the foreign visitors experienced the diversity and wealth of Sulu. They learned about the region's rich history and Islamic heritage, Sultan, colonial, and military histories. They likewise witnessed the Badjaos or sea gypsies celebrating an overwater wedding ceremony and learned about other ethnic communities and their rich cultural heritage.

The foreign visitors experienced Sulu’s pristine beaches, and incredible views of mountains and lakes. They delighted in activities such as swimming, scuba diving, hiking, and sampling of the local food, including high-quality Arabica coffee, durian, mangosteen and seafood.

“Being one of the first foreign visitors to Sulu in recent years has been a real thrill, and I’d like to thank the PGE for the opportunity. Most outsiders don’t realize that Sulu is a kind of tropical paradise, with lush greenery, white sand beaches, and bountiful fishes, fruits and flowers. Even fewer realize that Sulu is a land filled with warm, friendly, smiling people who are open and welcoming to visitors,” MTP founder Charles Veley said.

“Some of my favorite memories of Sulu are swimming in the clear blue water, laughing and taking selfies with the curious kids, and our morning arrival into the spectacular Jolo harbor, with the Masjid Tulay rising majestically out of the morning mist,” Veley added.

PGE said Project Sulu is just the beginning of a concerted effort to promote Sulu and other regions in the Philippines as prime tourist destinations.

Last year, the AFP and its partner agencies launched the "Road to Tourism" program, a grand plan that will promote Sulu's tourism industry.

President Marcos has identified tourism as one of the top priorities of his administration.

During pre-pandemic times, tourism contributed 12.9 percent or close to 13 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

In a speech in Ilocos Norte last month, Marcos reiterated his administration’s support to the sector as the country continues to recover from the pandemic.

Marcos noted the number of tourist arrivals is “steadily increasing” and would hopefully reach pre-pandemic levels.

“I assure you that the government’s commitment to strengthen the domestic tourism industry remains a top priority,” he said.