GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/19 March) – The Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) of South Cotabato plans to regulate the entry of housing and business-related structures within the famed Seven Falls in Lake Sebu town in a bid to protect its environs.
South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr. said the board is initially looking at banning the construction of new housing structures and establishment of business ventures within the two-kilometer radius of the town’s seven waterfalls, which is under the Seven Falls Eco-tourism Development Project.
The area is part of the Allah Valley Protected Landscape, which covers a total of 102,350 hectares.
“We’re quite concerned with the mushrooming houses and business enterprises there, especially around the zip line area as it might affect the environment there,” he said in a statement released by the South Cotabato Information Office.
The governor said they earlier raised such concern in a meeting called by PAMB and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region 12.
Pingoy said PAMB members considered to declare as “off limits” the declared “strict protection zone” of the seven waterfalls to prevent incursions that might damage its natural beauty.
He said the board initially ruled that any future business endeavor within the area will have to be cleared first by its members.
It emphasized that the proposed business enterprises or ventures that may be allowed should complement with the culture of the area’s T’boli tribal folks.
“The board also urged the provincial government to develop a plan for the Seven Falls that will support the implementation of the National Greening Program (NGP), specifically the planting of various indigenous tree species to ensure clean water supply, fresh air, reduced erosion, and environmental productivity, among others,” Pingoy said.
The governor said the local government is currently working with PAMB for the formulation and implementation of initiatives that will further improve the Seven Falls eco-tourism project, which is located within a declared protected area.
Aside from these, Pingoy said the board recommended the development of a management master plan to help check all the activities within the Seven Falls protected area.
The master plan will set the policies and requirements for the approval of clearances for any development in the area, he said.
Last year, the provincial government released an additional P5 million to fast track the ongoing implementation of the Seven Falls development project, which it had adopted as its flagship tourism initiative.
The project took off in 2009 with an initial funding of P20 million, which was utilized for the installation of a zip line that connects three of the seven waterfalls.
The zip lines cover waterfalls 1 and 5 as well as waterfalls 2 and 5 and features a thrilling drop of about 740 and 400 meters, respectively, that were considered as among the highest in the
country. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)