With 18 affirmative votes, the Senate passed on third reading a bill declaring the Balanga Wetland and Nature Park (BWNP) as a responsible, community-based ecotourism zone.
Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and principal sponsor of Senate Bill 2228, thanked her colleagues in the Senate for seeing the importance of the legislation which promotes environmental stewardship.
“The benefits of the passage of the bill will redound significantly to the economic growth of the people of the City of Balanga and Province of Bataan; to the tourism development in the area; and more importantly to environmental sustainability considering that BWNP is a known sanctuary of birds and fish. So, it is a triple win scenario,” Villar said.
“It is a triple win scenario.”
The park covers 153,578 sqm of mangrove forest and 187,500 sqm of foreshore land in Barangay Tortugas, Balanga City.
During the committee hearing of the bill, Bataan 2nd District Rep. Jose Enrique Garcia said the park includes lush presence of birds, both endemic and migratory, which makes the area a popular bird watching site in Central Luzon.
As a special ecotourism zone, BWNP will be accorded priority development by the Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Public Works & Highways and the Tourism Infrastructure & Enterprise Zone Authority.
“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,” the seasoned legislator stressed in sponsoring the measure.
“Sustainable tourism is the only option especially nowadays.”
The bill also mandates the formation of the Balanga Wetland and Natural Park Development Council headed by the Mayor of the City of Balanga. The council will be responsible for the formulation and the implementation of the ecotourism development and management plan in consultation with local residents, businesses and other stakeholders.
The veteran lawmaker added that once passed into law, the bill is expected to keep the momentum going as far as tourism development in Central Luzon is concerned.
According to DoT-Central Luzon, ecotourism is a fast-growing segments of the region’s tourism market. Moreover, the Province of Bataan is among the thriving areas in the region with a record of 480,917 travelers in 2017.
DENR has also endorsed the measure which “will allow BWNP to fully maximize its potential as an ecotourism zone that is community-based and sustainable, leaving financial and social-economic benefits to its local residents”.
“Tourism development must be socially and environmentally sustainable. It is our hope that more people and organizations will prioritize it despite the numerous challenges involved in ensuring that eco-sensitive and protected areas remain in pristine condition or at least rehabilitated,” the lady senator said.