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Benguet strawberry farms, a sought-after tourism site

A Department of Tourism (DOT) official said Monday strawberry farms here are being eyed as a tourism destination for the quality of the strawberry it produces.

“There are farms in other parts of the country that grow strawberries but there is nothing that tastes better than the (strawberry of the) province of Benguet,” said Arturo Boncato Jr., DOT Undersecretary for Tourism Regulation Coordination and Resource Generation during the program of the 38th Strawberry Festival here.

He said the valley town offers a one-of-a-kind experience, with tourists having the chance to pick fresh strawberries straight from the plant. This tourism experience also provides an opportunity for farmers to earn income from selling berries and from-the-farm tourism activities.

Boncato said Benguet is “fortunate” because strawberry is a high-value crop.

“We are very fortunate that BSU (Benguet State University) is the main source of our strawberries here in Benguet. Our appeal to BSU is to sustain these beautiful strawberry farms. I know there will be expansion farms somewhere but let us think carefully not to make it as a destination for business but a destination for tourists all over the country,” he said.

Sustaining the strawberry farms as a sought-after destination needs the collaboration of the private sector, local government units, and the community in crafting policies and regulations, he said.

The DOT has already accredited a total of 108 farm tourism sites all over the country, but the challenge is to make sure that strawberry farms here would become one of the most sought-after tourism sites.

“We really like to make that happen, in fact, the national government has been continuing its effort, investing in tourism road infrastructure,” Boncato said.

He also mentioned that the department had spent PHP108 billion since the road convergence project began in 2013.

He said the national government, through the DOT, would continue to build roads leading to tourism destinations and assured that the roads will be much easier and accessible for the tourists to reach the different destinations.

“Access here has become so much easier but we have the responsibility to protect them. We should be more conscious and aware how to protect our destinations so that these destinations will remain as beautiful as they are, even after we have gone in this world,” he said.

In the past years, the DOT and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) had been implementing the tourism-road convergence projects, constructing a tourism road network that leads to tourism sites in various localities, including barangays, with tourist spots.

Earlier, he encouraged farmers in the region to venture into farm tourism, as this would benefit them hugely, such as in terms of higher income and free education, and ultimately give the country food security.

“Any farmer can venture in farm tourism. Our regional office here is very much willing to provide the necessary training and assistance to our farmers who want to convert their farm into a tourist destination,” he said.

In the Cordillera region, the DOT has already accredited two farm tourism sites that were found to be compliant with the standards. They are the Cosmic Farm in Benguet and the Layug Farm in the Mountain Province.

It is eyeing 10 additional farm tourism sites in the region for accreditation.

On the sidelines of the 38th Strawberry Festival here, Jovita Ganongan, officer-in-charge of DOT-Cordillera, defined “fun farm tourism” as an activity that allows tourists to have an experiential activity on farming by providing orientation, which encourages farmers to venture into an activity more than just producing, but also sharing the experience.

Ganongan said the farmers would not just focus on productivity, but also come up with tourism activities in their farms, providing tours for their tourists, and educating them on how to do farming.(By Pamela Mariz Geminiano)

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