BACOLOD CITY – A lawmaker in Negros Occidental has filed bills to declare three sites in the province’s third district as ecotourism zones and mobilize national funding for their development.
Rep. Jose Francisco “Kiko” Benitez authored House Bills No. 9382, 9383, and 9384, which aim to declare the Gawahon Eco-Park in Victorias City, Mt. Kanlandog in Murcia, and Sitio Pulak-Pulakan in Barangay San Fernando, Talisay City as ecotourism zones, respectively.
Gawahon Eco-Park, with its waterfalls and pools, has been a popular tourist destination in Victorias City, drawing 8,000 visitors annually.
It is also a paradise for birdwatchers with 106 endemic bird species documented in the area.
On the other hand, Mt. Kanlandog in Murcia, where relay transmitters of several radio and TV companies, and telecommunication towers are constructed, has vast ecotourism potential.
Sitio Pulak-Pulakan is a forest land in Talisay City, owned by the Negros Occidental provincial government.
Benitez said a portion of the forest land has been developed as a bamboo nursery by the provincial government, and is envisioned to become a Nature Tourism and Biodiversity Conservation Center to promote agroforestry and bamboo architecture.
“The bills mandate the Department of Tourism (DOT), in coordination with the concerned local government unit and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, to create a master plan for each site, and to construct structures according to ecotourism principles,” the congressman said.
“We need the intervention of national agencies in developing these sites because our local governments might not have adequate funds to construct all necessary infrastructure to fully realize the potential of these areas,” he added.
According to Benitez, the DOT will transfer the management of the facilities to the concerned local government within two years after construction.
“We expect that the revenues from tourist arrivals in these ecotourism sites will be used by local governments to support sustainable livelihood of residents, and biodiversity conservation and environmental protection of the areas,” he said.