Rep. Jose Francisco “Kiko” Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) recently filed bills to declare three sites in the Third District of Negros Occidental as ecotourism zones and mobilize national funding for their development.
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. Gawahon Eco-Park is also a paradise for birdwatchers, with 106 endemic bird species documented in the area, he said.
Mt. Kanlandog in Murcia, where relay transmitters of several radio and TV companies, and telecommunication towers are constructed, has vast ecotourism potential, Benitez also said.
Sitio Pulak-Pulakan is a forest land in Talisay City, owned by the Negros Occidental provincial government, he 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, Benitez said.
“The bills mandate the Department of Tourism, 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,” Benitez said.
“We need the intervention of national agencies in developing these sites because our LGUs might not have adequate funds to construct all necessary infrastructure to fully realize the potential of these areas,” the lawmaker said.
“DOT will transfer the management of the facilities to the concerned local government unit, within two years after construction,” Benitez added.
“We expect that the revenues from tourist arrivals in these ecotourism sites will be used by LGUs to support sustainable livelihood of residents, and biodiversity conservation and environmental protection of the areas,” Benitez said.*