SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to declare the islands of Nagarao, Naboctot, and Guin-Awayan in Placer, Masbate an ecotourism zone.
House Bill 8726 is authored by Rep. Scott Davies Lanete M.D. (3rd District, Masbate) and former Davao City Rep and now Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei Nograles. It was based on HB 1090, principally authored by Lanete.
The measure collectively declares the islands of Nagarao, Naboctot, and Guin-Awayan as an ecotourism zone.
“Considering that it is the policy of the State to undertake the sustainable development of the environment simultaneously with the right of the people to a healthy and balanced ecology, it is imperative that the national government provides the needed care and attention to the Island of Nagarao and its surrounding islands,” said Lanete.
He explained that while the Island of Nagarao and its surrounding islands are full of tourist and economic potentials, it remains undiscovered and undeveloped because of the lack of attention from the national government.
The area further has and continues to fall prey to unscrupulous groups engaged in illegal fishing that causes massive and irreversible destruction to the area, according to Lanete.
The bill mandates the Secretaries of the DOT and DENR to include in their respective programs the implementation of this measure, the funding of which shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act and from the internally generated funds of the DOT.
In addition, HB 8728 establishes the Placer Ecotourism Council. The Secretary of the Department of Tourism (DOT) shall serve as Chairperson of the council and the Mayor of the municipality of Placer shall serve as Co-Chairperson. Members shall comprise a representative of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR) and four representatives from accredited non-government organizations and people's organizations in ecotourism, recognized indigenous people's federation, reputable travel organizations, and the academe. The four member-representatives shall be appointed by the local legislative body.
The representative-members shall serve a term of five years, and their appointment may be renewed for another term.
Assisted by the DOT and DENR, the Council shall adopt and update an ecotourism master plan and supervise the implementation of corresponding programs and activities therein; assess and evaluate the potential impact of development to the environmental safety and well-being of the ecotourism zone; and conduct consultations with local residents who are affected by ecotourism development to assimilate their cultural values and beliefs in the master plan.
The Council shall also provide technical and financial assistance to communities in the ecotourism zone, formulate rules and regulations which shall prohibit illegal fishing and related activities; and perform such other functions as may be necessary to carry out the objectives of the measure.
Lanete noted that the creation of this Council shall aim to steer the area to fame and progress while maintaining the sanctity of its natural resources.| Czarina Engracia, Molie Gonzales/ News and Documentation Section-Press and Public Affairs Bureau