By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Cynthia Villar on Tuesday lauded the signing of the law, declaring as an ecotourism site the coastal sanctuary in Balanga City, Bataan.
President Duterte signed last August 8 the Republic Act 11365, the Balanga Wetland and Nature Park Responsible Ecotourism Act.
“The benefits of the enactment of the [law] will redound significantly to the economic growth of the people of the City of Balanga and the Province of Bataan and to the tourism development in the area. It will also further promote environmental sustainability considering that BWNP is a known sanctuary of birds and fish,” Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and principal sponsor of RA 11365 in Senate, said.
The new law declares the Balanga Wetland and Nature Park as a “responsible, community-based ecotourism zone.”
The park covers 153,578 square meters of mangrove forest and 187,500 squaremeters of foreshore land in Barangay Tortugas.
As a special ecotourism zone, the park shall be accorded priority development by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Public Works and Highways and the Tourism Infrastructure & Enterprise Zone Authority. It shall also be subject to the government rules and regulations in developing ecotourism zones.
RA 11365 also mandates the creation of the Balanga Wetland and Natural Park Development Council, which, with the guidance of the said agencies, will be responsible for the formulation and the implementation of the development and management plans for the ecotourism zone, in consultation with local residents, businesses and other stakeholders.
The Balanga Wetland and Nature Park is popular as a bird watching site where the annual “Ibong Dayo” Festival is held.
Citing a report of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, Villar said the area is home to some 9,500 resident and migratory birds.
“Sustainable tourism is the only option especially nowadays, where there are many well-documented incidents of damage to the environment or natural resources, including marine and aquatic resources in various tourism sites here and abroad. Tourism, without environment preservation and protection, is usually the cause of such,” Villar said.