DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 Sept) – The provincial government of Compostela Valley has strengthened its ecotourism promotion by branding itself as another caving or spelunking destination of the Davao Region, with the recent discoveries of numerous caves in seven out of the province’s 11 municipalities.
Priscilla A. Decena, caving coordinator of the provincial government of, told reporters during the memorandum of agreement (MOA) signing on the Tourism Industry Skills Program (TISP) Friday at the Seda Abreeza Hotel here that the province boasts of a promising potential for spelunking activities, with the recent discoveries of explored and unexplored caves that are now attracting visitors.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) 11 defines caving as “any activity that involves the exploration of caves or underground passages and features except when passages are explored with the use of scuba diving.”
Decena added that the province has yet to complete the Cave Management Plan next month, which will be submitted for approval to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the region, which would include regulatory measures and set environmental protection initiatives to be taken by the host municipalities.
She said the plan will require some municipal governments to conserve and plant trees within the cave’s 500-meter radius.
Decena said caves were discovered in Mawab, Montevista, Monkayo, Nabunturan, New Bataan, Compostela, and Laak towns, and sightings of new caves have been reported to the Provincial Tourism Office. She said Bongkilaton caves in Compostela town will be explored on October 19.
She said Laak town reportedly has over 100 caves.
Decena said the provincial government has been training the residents of the host communities as guides to ensure the protection, conservation, and preservation of the vegetation and the natural ecosystem inside the caves and their immediate environs.
She said the province has so far listed 2,000 spelunkers for this year but clarified that caves with no delicate rock formations will be opened for caving activities and limit the number of visitors by coming up with guided tours “to minimize the impact.”
Decena said they enrolled in Department of Tourism (DOT) 11’s Tourism Industry Skills Program (TISP) to train residents to become guides.
DOT 11 director Roberto Alabado II said Compostela Valley boasts of some ecotourism activities because “they have a lot of natural attractions”, which include rafflesia, the world’s largest flower.
He said the TISP enables the province to choose what trainings they want to conduct to engage the players who are directly involved in local tourism.
“In its new cave attractions, they need to professionalize the cave guides. That’s why there is a need for training,” Alabado said.
A project briefer sent by the DOT 11 said TISP is a special project which aims “to conduct various human capability building trainings for the industry stakeholders all over the country” and envisions to address the concerns of the Philippine Tourism Human Resources Development Plan.
It added that the programs intends to empower industry workers to provide quality service leading to customer satisfaction, meet services standards, increase employment in the tourism sector, improved income opportunities, increased competitiveness of the Philippine tourism industry, and increased tourist arrivals and tourism receipts.
It said the program is in line with Ambisyon Natin 2040 specifically to the Pagbabago segment of the Vision which aims to reduce inequality in economic development opportunities.
The tourism industry was identified as one of the priority sectors to achieve the vision of a “relevant, inclusive and sustainable growth”. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)