THE Department of Tourism (DOT) has backed the development of an eco-tourism zone in Barangay Ga-as, Balamban, one of the lead proponents of the project has said.

According to Edwin Ortiz, one of the trustees of DOT’s Tourism Promotions Board, DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. has instructed him to write a letter to Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary Ramon Paje requesting his office to speed-up the classification status and identification of protected sites in the Brgy. Ga-as for the project to immediately take-off.

Ortiz, who is also one of the prime movers of the Ga-as-Manunggal Eco-Tourism Group, said that Jimenez is interested in promoting the historical Mt. Manunggal, the site where former president Ramon Magsaysay’s private plane crashed in 1957.

“There are a lot of things we want to do there. But, we cannot start unless the DENR-Protected Area Management Board will identify which part is protected,” said Ortiz.

If declared an eco-tourism zone, Ortiz said that part of Balamban will become another tourist attraction for Cebu and will bring in more tourism development and opportunities for the town.

Part of the group’s plan is to offer a tourism destination that capitalizes on eco-tourism including activities like flower plantation picking and fresh vegetable shopping, as well as the establishment of pasalubong and antique shop stores.

This Cebu Eco-Tourism Zone concept was presented by the group some five years ago to the Cebu Provincial Government. Although it earned favorable interest from the province, Ortiz said the approval will depend on DENR’s move to identify the questionable and protected areas. 

The Regional Eco-tourism Council of Cebu, spearheaded by the DOT and the DENR, have identified at least 20 eco-tourism sites in the region.

The region’s top 10 eco-tourism sites include Camotes Island, Bantayan Island and wildlife area, Central Cebu protected area, the Guadalupe Mainit-Mabugnaw Spring in Carcar, Chocolate Hills, Rajah Sikatuna protective landscape in Bohol, Twin Lakes Balinsasayao in Negros Oriental, Apo Island, Lobok-Mabini-Anda corridor in Bohol, and Olango Island sanctuary.