Capitol: Kawasan Falls to reopen in October
KAWASAN Falls, a popular tourist destination in the southwestern town of Badian, Cebu, will reopen to the public by Oct. 24 or 25, 2023.
The area was temporarily closed by the Provincial Government last June after environment and local officials discovered “hazardous metallic spikes” and illegal structures within its defined easement zones.
This development will mean almost a thousand canyoneering and tour guides can return to work.
Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia made the announcement during her latest visit to the natural wonder on Thursday, Sept. 28, where she met with stakeholders, including town officials and their tourism counterparts, and tourist guides.
While inspecting the situation at the site, the governor was joined by Badian Mayor Carmencita Lumain, Tourism Undersecretary Shahlimar Hofer Tamano, Seventh District Rep. Peter John Calderon and Provincial Board (PB) Members Cesar Baricuatro, Jerome Librando and Red Duterte.
After it was closed to the public last June 6, Kawasan Falls underwent rehabilitation to pave the way for the removal of hazardous debris and abandoned structures in the area and the establishment of new guidelines to ensure tourist safety.
The hazardous debris were remnants of the destruction left by super typhoon Odette (Rai) in December 2021, while the abandoned structures were illegal man-made structures that encroached on the river’s easement zone, posing a safety risk to tourists.
During Thursday’s meeting, Garcia also announced that the town’s 935 canyoneering guides and 26 tour guides will have to undergo five days of intensive training to be conducted by the Department of Tourism (DOT) before they can be deployed on the target opening date.
To assist them with their daily needs since the guides have temporarily lost their only means of livelihood, the Provincial Government will provide them with a sack of rice each.
The Capitol will also provide them with personal accident insurance through the Government Service Insurance System once they complete the DOT training.
Garcia tasked the Badian Municipal Government to make an accounting of all canyoneering and tour package operators and to make sure they are registered with the Bureau of Internal Revenue to address the issue of some operators not paying their dues and taxes to the government.
Garcia said operators must secure a new certificate of compliance from the Provincial Tourism Office before they can operate and they must also be accredited with the DOT.
She also tasked the PB to formulate an ordinance on new regulations like guide fees, among others.
In a message sent to SunStar Cebu on Friday, Sept. 29, Earl Vincent Endab, tourism officer and information officer designate of Badian, said the Badian Municipal Government has installed basic infrastructure such as pathways, bridges and viewing decks at the site.
He said the town also implemented greening programs, and repaired the tourist information center to support the influx of tourists next month.
“We also prepared the policies and related regulations,” Endab said.
When Kawasan Falls was temporarily closed, the town of Badian lost P1.1 million in daily income, directly affecting 40 operators and 700 tour guides.
In an interview on June 8, Endab told SunStar Cebu that the Municipality’s share of the daily income was P100,000, as the remainder went to private tour operators.
The canyoneering activities at Kawasan Falls accommodate an average of 700 tourists on weekdays, while it can reach up to 900 tourists on weekends, he said.
Each visitor pays P1,500 for the canyoneering activity, with P200 going to the Municipality and P1,300 going to the tour operators. The payment already includes tour guides, environmental fee, habal-habal ride, food and safety equipment.
He said Kawasan Falls’ closure also affected the town’s other tourism sites, such as Lambug Beach, as the number of tourists dropped.
To offset the closure’s negative impact, the operators were enrolled in the Tupad program of the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) 7 in partnership with the Badian Municipal Government, he said.
According to Dole’s website, Tupad or Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers is a community-based package of assistance that provides emergency employment for displaced workers, underemployed and seasonal workers, for a minimum period of 10 days, but not to exceed a maximum of 30 days, depending on the nature of work to be performed.
Endab said some local guides were hired to remove illegal structures in the area, while others returned to farming or fishing for their livelihood.