THE local government unit (LGU) of Bani, Pangasinan and concerned government agencies are mulling over the idea of opening to tourists portions of the Angel Cave, which is known for its angel-wing rock formation and majestic falls, as they work in changing its classification.
The Angel Cave is an underground cave measuring 1.6 kilometer and situated in Barangay Centro Toma.
Municipal tourism officer, Rommel Dulay, said since it was discovered by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Ilocos in 2012, the cave has been classified as Class 1 and therefore was closed to the public or tourists.
According to the DENR, Class 1 caves are those with delicate and fragile geological formations, threatened species, archeological and paleontological values, and extremely hazardous conditions.
“We only allow based from the guidelines of DENR for Class 1 caves, cave mapping, research or study purposes, given that they secure permits from DENR,” Dulay said in an interview on Friday, April 12.
He recalled that a site management plan on the cave was initiated last year by the DENR, Community Environment and Natural Resources Office, and the LGU of Bani, and they are now on the final review.
“Even before, a lot of tourists would like to see the Angel Cave but it is prohibited since it was a Class 1 cave. So we did a review on the possibility of making it a Class 2 cave,” Dulay said.
Class 2 caves are those with areas or portions that have sections with hazardous conditions and contain sensitive geological, biological, archeological, cultural, historical, and biological values or high-quality ecosystem.
It may be necessary to close sections of these seasonally or permanently but it is opened to experienced cavers, or guided educational tours or visits, according to DENR.
“Contained in the site management plan are ways to protect and conserve the cave, as well as to open portion of it to tourists, but limited to 20 visitors a day, with age limit. There should be advanced booking with no special treatment and there will be a cave day when it will not be opened to any tourist but only to those who will clean the cave,” Dulay said.
Since the site management plan began, the DENR has declared the top portion of the cave as protected zone, wherein residents could no longer cut trees in the area.
“We have talked to land owners at the top portion of the cave and we are proposing other sources of livelihood for the residents, aside from coal-making. We asked them to have an association (people’s organization) planting fruit-bearing trees. We are identifying possible crops, such as cacao or coffee, for them to earn from,” he said.
Dulay said they are also proposing home-stay tourism, training on how to make souvenirs, and traditional massage for the residents in preparation for opening the cave to tourists.
He added the Department of Tourism has granted a Tourism Road Infrastructure Project to the town along the way going to Angel Cave, which is now on the last phase.
“The project is, however, experiencing some setback since the Mines and Geosciences Bureau needs to find an alternative route for the road project because there are sinkholes on (some) portions,” Dulay said.
Once the site management plan is finalized, he said, it will be submitted to the Municipal Council and then to the Provincial Board for approval before an ordinance on the plan is enacted. (PNA)