The administration of the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm (IPPF) has committed to help the Iwahig Community Eco-Tourism Multi-Purpose Cooperative (ICEMCO) renew its memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to revive the operation of its mangrove firefly watching tour in the Iwahig river.

City tourism officer Aileen Cynthia Amurao said IPPF Superintendent Geraldo Aro made the pledge on Monday during a courtesy visit to Mayor Lucilo Bayron at his office.

“Ngayong umaga nag-courtesy visit dito si Superintendent Aro, isang magandang balita dahil merong magandang move si Superintendent Aro na siya ay makikipagtulungan na maayos natin itong kontrata ng Iwahig firefly at ng Bureau of Corrections. Gagawin niya ang lahat para mamagitan between the City Government at itong Bureau of Corrections para ma-address ‘yong mga pressing issues sa ngayon,” she said.

About 60 workers lost their jobs after the BuCor issued a cease and desist order (CDO) against the ICEMCO-operated Iwahig river mangrove firefly watching tour on March 26 to be effective April 27.

ICEMCO is the community-based sustainable tourism (CBST) operating the tour.

“Nagpapa-salamat tayo unang-una sa lahat kay Supt. Geri Aro sa pag-bisita niya dito sa City Hall. He was supposed to join the flag ceremony kanina pero medyo na-late nga daw sila, at siya naman ay talagang tinanggap din ni Mayor nang talagang open arms kasi hindi naman natin mai-alis na ang Iwahig ay malaking bahagi ng Puerto Princesa,” she said.

Amurao added many travel agencies offering the tour were affected by the site’s closure.

BuCor, through its legal counsel Atty. Fredric Anthony Santos, issued the CDO against the ICEMCO for “breach of contract”.

BuCor is demanding the ICEMCO to pay P2.4 million payment from the time they operated the site in 2008 before they renew the MOA.

For Amurao, however, she said that the cooperative should not pay BuCor for the previous years of operation because their lease agreement started only in 2018 with P30,000 as an annual payment.

Amurao said they are hopeful that the problem can be settled within the week and the MOA can be renewed.

“Pero siya [Aro] ay willing na mag-mediate, kasi recommendatory naman siya. Malaki ang role ni Superintendent Aro. I believe with his capability, tingin ko kaya niyang maayos, kaya niyang ipaliwanag ‘yong sitwasyon ng City Government at noong kooperatiba kay BuCor Director Nicolas Faeldon. Tingin ko kaya niya, naniniwala ako doon sa abilidad niya. Talagang maabilidad din si [Aro]. I firmly believe, kaya niya,” Amurao said.

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