Responsible ecotourism to help preserve protected areas

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is pushing for ecotourism projects as part of its conservation plans for protected areas in Central Luzon.

DENR information officer Don Guevarra said ecotourism projects provide livelihood opportunities and greater appreciation for the protection and conservation of special areas.

"The DENR is looking at ecotourism projects, like boardwalks, kayaking, river cruises, and boat tours in various protected areas like in Bataan National Park. Habitat rehabilitation is also being done to keep the vegetation intact in protected areas," Guevarra said.

Just this October, hundreds of marine protected area managers, ecosystem management specialists, and development management from the DENR from four regions converged in Zambales in a bid to strengthen the protection of marine protected areas (MPA) in the country.

MPA is an area that has been reserved by Philippine law and governed by specific rules or guidelines to manage activities to protect the entire, or part of, the enclosed coastal and marine environment.

In Central Luzon, the 7,000-hectare Masinloc-Oyon Bay Protected Landscape and Seascape, a newly legislated protected area under Republic Act 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (Enipas) Law, is the lone marine protected area in the region and is home to unique and diverse marine life.

Other newly legislated protected areas in the region include the Amro River Protected Landscape (6,431.30 hectares), Dinadiawan River Protected Landscape (3,366.54 hectares), Simbahan Talagas Protected Landscape (2,284.30 hectares), and Talaytay Protected Landscape (3,598.31 hectares), all in Aurora; and the Roosevelt Protected Landscape (950.43 hectares) in Bataan.

DENR records show that the Philippines has 33 declared MPAs covering more than 1.5 million hectares under the Enipas Law.

Guevarra said the DENR is now working with the legislation of Sasmuan in making Bangkung Malapad a critical habitat.

Located along Sasmuan town's coastal frontier, Bangkung Malapad (Wide Bench) is an islet that covers the area of around 405.50 hectares of mudflats.

The area was formed from volcanic sediments carried by water currents into the area by the Pasak River, which drains toward Sasmuan.

Bangkung Malapad, while not yet a recognized protected area, had slowly become an eco-tourism destination.

The areas vital importance to local biodiversity and its great ecotourism potential have been the two major reasons why local stakeholders and the DENR are pushing to have it raised to the status of a critical habitat area.


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