Mayor Beng Climaco Thursday convened the maiden meeting of the “Once Islas Development Board,” signaling the start of promotion, preservation and development of the city’s Eleven Islands as an eco-cultural tourism destination.
Climaco, who chairs the Board, lauded the efforts of the Board members and the Secretariat under the auspices of the City Tourism Office headed by Sarita Sebastian-Hernandez.
The Eleven Islands, locally known as “Once Islas,” are known for their pristine beaches, rock formations and diversified underwater organisms. They are eco-cultural tourism destination because the intention is not only to preserve and promote their natural resources but also the cultural treasures of the tribes that thrive thereon.
During the said meeting, the chief executive sworn in the Board members and the Technical Working Group (TWG) was organized to prepare the implementing rules and regulations (IRR).
Also discussed were the existing policies on booking procedures, security, entrance and environmental fees, tourist boat operation, front desk operation, community guide, island wardens, conservation and protection of biodiversity, and declaration of Sirommon Island as dive site.
In her situational report, Hernandez said the efforts to promote, preserve and develop the “Once Islas” as eco-cultural tourism destination began two years ago as a result of the hard work of the local government headed by Mayor Climaco.
She said the ordinance that provides for the operation of “Once Islas Eco-Cultural Tourism Destination” was approved on April 17, 2018, followed by the soft opening on July 1 of same year.
Thereafter, Hernandez said her office had submitted to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) the Eleven Islands Development Management Plan and the Once Islas Coastal Management Plan.
Both documents, being required for the Once Islas Co-Management Agreement, were likewise submitted to and eventually approved by the Sangguniang Panlungsod.
On August 26, this year, the Once Islas Co-Management Agreement was signed by Mayor Climaco on behalf of the city government, DENR-9 Regional Executive Director Cristina Marlene P. Rodriguez, Sama Banguingui Tribal Leader Salam A. Buah, and the barangay chairpersons of Panubigan and Dita, Jacqueline Magasa and Samat I. Nasa, respectively.
The agreement seeks to promote “Once Islas” as the city’s premier eco-cultural tourism destination. It likewise calls for the islands’ preservation, management and conservation of three islands, namely; “Bisaya-Bisaya,” “Baung-Baung,” and “Sirommon,” all good for swimming, snorkeling, skin diving and scuba diving.
Barangay Panubigan has been designated as the official jump off point to the islands via Sirommon. At present, there are cottages on Sirommon and Bisaya-Bisaya islands.-(Vic Larato)