Monday, February 15, 2016

Transforming Dinagat Province from mining to eco-tourism haven

Dinagat Island - Representative Arlene Bag-ao on Friday expressed optimism in being able to transform this island province – from its present mining image into an eco-tourism and conservation haven.

"We dream of a day that the Dinagat islands will not anymore be referred to as mining haven in Caraga Region, and instead be known as the conservation haven of the Philippines," Rep. Bag-ao said.

"With our vast potential for eco-tourism ventures, we are now beginning to implement a conservation program that will, we hope, extricate vital watershed areas from the coverage of mineral reservations. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is working with us and we are now finalizing the proclamation that will be signed by the President. It's a big statement to say that it really makes no sense to continue the mineral reservation category in Dinagat and instead develop the eco-tourism potential," Bag-ao added.

Punta Villa, Arellano, Libjo, Dinagat Islands. Photo: Mapio

One of topsoil-stripped mining areas in Barangay Sering,
Basilisa town in Dinagat Island
Bag-ao, a former Akbayan representative and human rights lawyer, pointed out the possibility of making the dream a reality.

"I think this is quite possible, we have many endemic species, natural areas and historical sites that can be seen only in Dinagat island and not in any other place in the country.

"An example would be the Bonsai Forest. Sinker Magkono tree, the numerous flora and fauna that have been recently discovered by scientists. These are all signs that our island province should be preserved, and conservation be its main focus, because having mining here doesn't really make sense" said Bag-ao.
Ferry between Surigao City and San Jose.

"For the first time, we already have in place various infrastructure facilities that would pave the way for tourism to be built up and flourish. Right now we have 110 kilometers of cemented roads and other roads being constructed to link various areas on the island that have not been linked before.

"A second Ro-Ro port will be built in the town of Loreto to compliment the only port we have here in San Jose. The port will be complemented by a port to be constructed in the town of Javier, Southern Leyte. And fish landing sites are being constructed in each of the municipalities to improve the lives of our fishermen," she said.

Bag-ao further explained, "I think it would be a very strong argument to say that all of the small island eco-systems in Dinagat, together with the remainder of the coral reefs, should be protected. It would not be just simple tourism; we hope the eco-tourism potential of the islands will bring additional income and better livelihoods for the people of Dinagat."

Marlon Villasor, an elementary public school teacher from Butuan City expressed how amazed he was when he visited and explored Dinagat island.


"As a backpacker, I've traveled and explored hundreds of areas all over the Philippines and, so far, what they have in Dinagat Island is just totally amazing. The island province has so much to offer that is better than those promoted by the Department of Tourism on their videos and brochures. Unfortunately, the place is not adequately promoted, and not completely prepared to cater to the needs of conventional tourists, but for backpackers and adventurers like me, the island is a huge wow," said Villasor.

Villasor quickly added that another wow factor about Dinagat is the proximity of the islands to each other.



"Most of the island destinations are close to each other, so you can actually start exploring as early as 6:00 in the morning and go back to San Jose town after 5:00 in the afternoon. Although some islets might be farther than the rest, it's not difficult to visit those that are close to each other."

The sad part about Dinagat, according to Villasor, "is the image of the island as an area for mining. We hope our government will realize the vast potential for tourism and preserve it for generations to enjoy." - Erwin Mascarinas, InterAksyon

Isla Aga, Dinagat Island


Susong Dalaga Hill

Susong Dalaga Hill
Susong Dalaga Hill from Bagtasan isthmus

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