Puraran Surfing Needs Private Sector Participation

For years now, some sectors including the Commission on Audit have been wondering why the provincial government and its municipal counterpart continues to insist on holding the yearly surfing competition in Puraran, Baras.

While there is certainly merit in promoting the Majestic waves off the coastal barangay to the whole world, there is little sense in funding a surfing competition that, with its decidedly small budget, attracts only surfers from other surfing spots in the country like Bagasbas in Camarines Norte, Siargao, La Union and Baler. From the budget of P609,000.00 in 2011, the COA said, the Baras LGU spent about P200,000 as cash prizes for the surfing contest and another P51,000 for the Bikini Open, plus P30,000 for the hiring of a band for a beach party. The kitty includes allocations for accommodation of the competing surfers, whose transportation expenses may have been likewise shouldered by the sponsoring LGUs.

The agency’s finding, contained in the 2011 Annual Audit Report on the local government’s transactions, noted that the LGU has been spending financial and human resources for such an activity for a long time, but apparently no income has been generated.

“Generally speaking, tourism promotion is an investment activity..., thus return of investment in the form of income or at least improved living condition of the people is expected,” the report said. “If there was no positive return on investment or any sign of economic gains, such activity must be discontinued because expenditures related thereto can be considered as unnecessary expenditures...”

For such an activity of the local government to generate income, it has to attract corporate sponsorships as well as generate considerable spending from visitors who will come to watch the tournament. Apparently, the town’s report on the surfing competition does not even list whether indeed Manila-based corporations gave cash for the right to display their banners as sponsors. There is also no data on how many visitors from outside the island came to watch the action on the waves and spend their money for food, accommodation and souvenirs. For the town to claim that there is a return on investment on its expense, there must be verifiable data that the business establishments at Puraran beach earned a substantial amount from sources other than the LGU’s event expenses. The report has not even touched the operation of the LGU guesthouse at the beach.

Since the very start, the choice of Puraran surfing as Baras One-Town, One-Product (OTOP) project has been a difficult one. The surfing season lasts only three months from July to September, when the prevailing “habagat” wind blows offshore and creates three-meter waves and up. The Majestic waves are said to be suited for professional surfers, not for amateurs, as they break on a dangerous coral reef. While the other 10 towns have products like pili or mud crab that grow or is available the entire year, Baras has to lie idle for nine months.

In the absence of any economic gains for the people of Baras from the surfing competition in the past decade, the municipal government and the provincial government would be well advised to heed the auditors’ recommendation that the management of the event be turned over to the private sector. An even more palatable option would be to convince one of the country’s hotel chains or tourism operators to establish a foothold in Puraran. That would be a real achievement.

Source: Editorial, Catanduanes Tribune