Midwest Cebu eco-tourism sites assessed

Cebu Provincial Government through Provincial Consultant for Eco-Tourism Joselito “Boboi” Costas concluded this week its assessment of eco-tourism sites in Midwest Cebu.

This is part of Capitol’s initiative to create a community-based eco-tourism project that, according to Costas, emphasizes authenticity, creativity of locals, innovation and stakeholder support.

Midwest Cebu covers Tabuelan, Aloguinsan, Pinamungahan, Toledo, Balamban, Asturias, and Tuburan.

This eco-tourism project under Gov. Hilario Davide III’s administration covers not only the beautiful sites but include as well cultural traditions and food.

This will not involve the construction of big buildings or hotels in the identified Midwest municipalities but small infrastructure like walkways, footpaths where there are none and clean restrooms where necessary.

The possible local government unit’s counterpart would be infrastructure development and participation of stakeholders in terms of food and fare for training participants.

One of the initial eco-tour sites Costas and his team have spotted is tuna and dolphin watching in Aloguinsan planned with the acquisition of a glass bottom boat and retrofitted pumpboats for the safety of tourists.

Dolphins are a natural attraction in the Aloguinsan coastline facing Tanon Strait, the biggest marine protected area in the country.  A dwarf sperm whale can also be found in the area.

Over in Toledo is Lake Malubog that is fast becoming a favorite among local tourists. Malubog is man-made and privately-owned.

Balamban’s pride is Kambuhawi and the crash site in Mt. Manunggal, which gained Costas’ Interest. The location just needs a trail leading to where President Ramon Magsaysay’s plane went down.

Tuburan’s offering is Bolo-Bolo Spring and a large mangrove area while Pinamungajan takes pride in its Campalabo Sandbar.

Asturias is home to Lake Buswang, a fine example of a wetland ecosystem where one can find a variety of fish species, aqua plants and shells among them.

The latest from this eco-tourism project, according to Costas, is the call for tour guides interpreters who will be trained to share with tourists the significance of a place or practice, such as the “palina” in Aloguinsan to drive bad spirits away.

The target is also to train locals who may be farmers, fishermen and their wives as tour guides like in Aloguinsan. They will also be trained to be dolphin spotters by marine biologists from the University of the Philippines-Diliman Marine Science Department.

As spotters, they are expected to record sightings of dolphins, where and what time and estimate how many are visible on the surface.

The training that started last May 1 is already on going. The marine scientist-trainers come to Cebu every now and then for the training.

The thrust of the eco-tourism project is boost local economy. As an example, Aloguinsan has so far generated P1.5 million from January to May 2015. Part of revenues was used to pay for the wages of “interpreters”.

In Pinamungahan, the local government unit manages an eco-tourism site, which it plans to hand over to the  fisherfolk to give them income.

In Balamban, the plan is also to  allow the farmers community to manage the crash site after training them to be interpreters.

In Asturias, a people’s organization is into tilapia farming at one of the eco-tour sites for income-generation purposes.

Dolphin watching will be launched before summer next year. June, July, August and September are considered lean months. Tourist arrivals usually start to pick up within November and December.

(Jalefaye Abap, on site weekly interview featuring Provincial Consultant for Eco-Tourism Joselito Costas)