Press Release
May 23, 2016

Bill seeks to declare Batanes as ecotourism zone

The Senate today approved on third and final reading a measure seeking to declare Batanes as a cultural heritage and ecotourism zone.

Sponsored by Senators Francis "Chiz" Escudero, chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and Loren Legarda, member of the Senate Committee on Tourism, House Bill 6152 seeks to promote and protect Batanes' ecology and environment as well as its natural and cultural heritage.

Under the bill, the province of Batanes shall be accorded priority of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and shall be subjected to the rules and regulations governing the development of cultural heritage and eco-tourism zone.

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said that the measure was part of government efforts to develop a local tourism industry "which is ecologically sustainable, responsible, participative, culturally sensitive, economically viable and equitable for local communities."

While infrastructure, human capital, and tourism products and programs in Batanes are being developed, Legarda noted the importance of sustaining the province's natural and cultural heritage.

"The Province of Batanes offers an amazing landscape, composed of stretches of vivid green fields perched above a rugged coastline, rolling hills and a vast blue sky that seems to constantly reach out to the ocean," she said.

She said both the government and the private sector recognized the province's potential to become an ecotourism zone. "In fact, since 2014, Batanes had been experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of tourists visiting the province."

She said that the bill would help address the negative impacts of unplanned tourism development in the province: "We do not want this pristine island group to be subjected to abuse and exploitation of tourists, whether intentional or otherwise."

Meanwhile, the Senate passed on third and final reading a bill seeking to establish the Southwestern Tagalog Region, to be composed of the provinces of Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan, and the cities of Calapan and Puerto Princesa as the MIMAROPA Region.

Senator JV Ejercito, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs and sponsor of House Bill No. 5511, said the measure sought to promote efficiency in the government by administrative decentralization, "accelerate social growth and economic development and improve public services within the region."

The region is one of the country's top producers of rice, banana, coconut, mango, cashew, papaya and cassava which are among the country's top export products while its fish production ranks second in the country. Tourism in the region plays a major role in economic growth contributing 7.8 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Rate in 2014.

The Senate also approved a measure seeking to declare tourism areas in Camiguin, organizing the Camiguin Tourism Council and mandating support for tourism development in the province.

Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara, who sponsored House Bill No. 5576, said that the measure seeks to declare certain areas of Camiguin as ecotourism attractions, in particular classifying them Tourism Development Areas (TDAs).

Angara noted that while Camiguin was the second smallest province in the Philippines in both land area and population, the island's natural attractions draws increasingly numerous visitors yearly - with approximately 400,000 visitor arrivals in 2012 alone, from the 250,000 visitors in 2008.(Yvonne Almiranez)

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