(File photo)

The City Tourism Office (CTO) has opened negotiations with the Bureau of Corrections (BUCOR) to include the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm (IPPF) in its Heritage Tourism Sites.

Puerto Princesa tourism chief Aileen Cynthia Amurao said she has visited IPPF Senior Supt. Geraldo Aro to discuss the plans of the city government on developing heritage tourism in the penal farm.

“Gusto natin talagang maituloy ‘yan … na i-develop talaga ‘yong Iwahig for heritage tourism,” Amurao said.

Amurao underscored the “heritage value” of the prison facility, one of the country’s oldest facility established during the American occupation in the early 20th century.

Amurao said they will be securing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with BUCOR to start developing and promoting tour packages on the facility.

“Ang pipirma doon sa memorandum of understanding (MOU) na idinraft natin is Bureau of Corrections (BUCOR) pa rin, allowing us siyempre the development ng tour package na ‘yan. Meron dapat mga certain agreements with the two government agencies,” Amurao said.

She added that the city government has started developing Iwahig through the construction of roads going to the area.

Amurao noted that their plan to sign an agreement with BUCOR was preempted last month after the agency suddenly stopped the operations of the firefly watching tour by the Iwahig Community Eco-Tourism Multi-Purpose Cooperative (ICEMCO).

ICEMCO is the community-based sustainable tourism (CBST) under the CTO, which operates the mangrove firefly watching tour in the Iwahig river which is under BuCor’s jurisdiction.

Sixty workers lost their jobs after the BuCor, through its legal counsel Atty. Fredric Anthony Santos, issued a cease and desist order (CDO) against the ICEMCO-operated Iwahig river mangrove firefly watching tour March this year for alleged “breach of contract”.

Amurao acknowledged that while this has remained an issue, local prison authorities have shown “openness and acceptance of the project.”