Iloilo’s upland towns gear for ecotourism accreditation

Iloilo’s upland towns gear for ecotourism accreditation

By Elsa S. Subong, Tuesday 11th of December 2012

ILOILO CITY, Dec. 11 (PIA6) – The upland municipalities in the Tigum-Aganan Watershed (TAW) area are now gearing up for ecotourism accreditation.

The Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) does not have an eco-tourism project yet and Iloilo can be the first province to be accredited, according to TIEZA officer Atty. Niño Ruperto Aquino.

Aquino recently gave an orientation on the guidelines for accreditation, designation and supervision of ecotourism enterprise zones, attended by the local government units and community-based organizations from the towns of Cabatuan, Leon, Maasin and Alimodian.

Aquino said they discussed with the LGUs the latter’s current efforts in formulating the Forest Land Use Plan and their Tourism Master Plan.

Likewise, priority infrastructure and investment opportunities within the TAW were also identified.

“The establishment of the zone in an area can help generate income, especially job employment for those living there,” Aquino said.

“The TIEZA can help the LGUs with funding for tourism infrastructure projects and can help market the tourism infra zone and eventually help market the municipality,” he added.

The municipalities of Leon, Cabatuan, Alimodian and Maasin are now stepping up efforts at formulating their eco-tourism plans for immediate submission to the TIEZA, after a planning orientation with the Canadian Urban Institute (CUI).

CUI Project Manager Benjamin Luz said they are continuously encouraging and helping the TAW municipalities in enhancing local development while protecting the watersheds through ecotourism initiatives.

Meanwhile, the Municipal Tourism Officers and other LGU officials of these towns said they have become aware of their ecotourism constraints and potentials.

Sherwin Bering of Alimodian said they have so many related activities and the people are participative yet they need to develop expertise in watershed management.

Cabatuan”s Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer Ric Valenzuela said while the local officials are very supportive to ecotourism endeavors, the people, on the other hand, lack the full awareness of these.

Roy Bermudo of LGU Maasin said they have specialized on the “One Town, One Product” initiative with their famous bamboo products and in the process, enhance its marketability.

On the other hand, the town of Leon, according to Rose Lea Kilayko, cannot still fully market their place because they still do not have enough amenities and infrastructures for ecotourism.

“We, however, have the strength of our women and youth who are actively involved in protecting our watersheds,” Kilayko said.

Leon has the Women of the Watershed (WOW), the first ever in all watershed areas in Iloilo to have an organization of women dedicated to the protection and promotion of the watershed.

DENR Forester Apolinario Corbal said they are now into aligning of ecotourism sites in the municipalities, developing specific activities and services to make an ecotourism circuit, then make one master plan for all.

“We hope to be the first ecotourism site accredited by TIEZA,” Corbal said. (CUI/JCM/ESS/PIA-Iloilo) - Timeline 2012