The City Council’s passage of an ordinance declaring Barangays Babuyan and Binduyan as locally conserved areas (LCA) has raised hopes among locals on the promotion of community-based sustainable tourism (CBST) projects in the area.
Ronald Amada, program manager of the Palawan Conservation Corps (PCC), told Palawan News that the passage of the LCA ordinance was a first of its kind in the province. The LCA covers 1,657 hectares in Babuyan, while Binduyan has 816 hectares.
“Pinaka-una ito sa Palawan na ma-declare as locally conserved area. Wala pang iba,” he said.
Unlike a protected area that is a “no touch zone,” the LCA protects while at the same time allows activities to be done to generate income for the community.
“Iba ito sa protected area na no touch zones talaga. Sa LCA, kahit regulated, may binabawal, ay may mga activities na pinapayagan,” he said.
One activity allowed, he said, is community-based sustainable tourism, which is handled and managed mainly by the local folks themselves, following a carefully crafted management plan to ensure that all activities are environment-friendly.
The community-based sustainable tourism (CBST) is handled by the Babuyan Twin Sandbars Association with 36 members and the Barangay Babuyan and Binduyan Community Tourism Association with 42 members in Barangay Binduyan. These two associations are the main stewards of the LCA together with the barangay concerned.
“Katuwang sa pagbuo ng LCA ay ang ibat-ibang partners natin kung saan binubuo rin ang management plan para sa mas maayos na pangangasiwa ng monitoring team o deputized wardens sa LCA,” he explained.
Amada said that among those who worked for the passage of the LCA declaration were City ENRO, City Tourism Office, City Planning and Development, DENR-CENRO, WPU and PNNI.
Since the main activities of two CBST sites are anchored on tourism, the income generated from entrance fees, and other fees for the tour guides, boats, and others will be divided among the associations’ members.
Dixy Portugueza, PCC community organizer, said that the Binduyan CBST activities include bird watching, trekking, swimming, rafting and other activities. Olangoan falls is also part of Binduyan.
Activities of Babuyan CBST, on the other hand, includes swimming, snorkeling, and trip to Babuyan Twin Sandbars, which is strategically located in the middle of the sea. The visitors and tourists are brought to a sandbar known as Puntod Gitna.
Gina Taghac, president of the Babuyan CBST said a sustainable tourism site tour to the Twin Sandbars costs P1,500 for a minimum of six persons, and P200 per additional person. The package includes the motorized boat, tent and snorkel.
A motorized boat with a capacity to accommodate 15 persons from the city government is helping them in their daily operations. When there are more than the number, they resort to hiring pump boats whose prices range from P1,000-P1,200.
Portugueza said that the Binduyan CBST members were trained on Basic Forest Trees Identification while those from the Babuyan CBST undertook a two-day Basic Coral Reef Monitoring and Evaluation training.
“Hindi lahat ng coral reef area ay papayagang may snorkeling, kaya ang mga ganito ay importante na ma-include sa management plan, lalo na baka may mga sensitibo na klase ng corals,” Amada said.
Babuyan has a five-hectare abandoned fishpond which will be rehabilitated through mangrove planting, while in Binduyan, specific areas will be also planted with indigenous tree species since rehabilitation is among the identified priority initiatives.
Ronnie Bondis, president of the Binduyan CBST said that they charge P50 per person to Olangoan falls and a trail guide’s fee for five guests is P400.
He added that the fees are for the maintenance of facilities such as cottages and a hanging bridge project of the city government. He said the income from the project is divided and distributed among members every three months.
“Nakakaabot naman ng P1,000 kahit papaano, mas matutulungan tayo kung ma-aprobahan ang ating proposed increase,” he said.
In Babuyan within the declared LCA, a marine protected area is located.
“Ang marine sanctuary naman ay pareho ang purpose, protection at conservation naman ang purpose,” Amada explained.