2 caves primed to become part of Region 12’s ecotourism circuit

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GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/7 February)– The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region 12 is pushing for the development of two unique caves in the region into prime ecotourism sites.

Ali Hajinasser, DENR-12’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Division head, said they are currently working on the establishment of a comprehensive management plan for the Kofnit Cave in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato and the Tenobak Cave in Lebak, Sultan Kudarat to allow their conversion into ecotourism areas.

He said such move will also facilitate the inclusion of the two caves into the region’s ecotourism and development plan.

“It is our mandate to protect our environment and conserve our natural resources, hence we must see to it that a management regime is in place before all ecotourism sites are opened to tourists, local and foreign alike,” he said in a statement.

Kofnit Cave, which is one of the mountain caves found in Lake Sebu town, is located in Sitio Lembila of Barangay Lamfugon. Kofnit is local term for bats, which have thrived for years at the cave.

Tenobak Cave is located in Barangay Keytodak in the coastal town of Lebak and reportedly boasts of a subterranean or underground river similar to the one found in Puerto Princesa in Palawan.

Thelma Arcallo, Lake Sebu tourism officer, said they expect an increase in economic activities in the area once Kofnit Cave is opened to tourists.

Citing details of their ecotourism plan, she said they have initially adopted the community-based ecotourism model for the area.

“Both the environment and cultural heritage are preserved while the benefits are shared by the people in the area,” she said.

Ronilo Gonzaga, Barangay Keytodac chair, believes the Tenobak Cave could eventually become a top tourist attraction for their area.

He said the cave’s underground river “drops several feet below into what is called as Tenobak Falls, which is actually a series of seven water falls.”

“This eco-tourism destination can be packaged to include a bird-watching site ideal for nature lovers, together with the cultural heritage of the Dulangan Manobo tribe,” Gonzaga said.

Region 12, which is also known as the Soccsksargen Region, has around 60 explored caves, four of which had been assessed and classified for protection by the DENR.

Region 12 comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

Among the region’s famous caves were the protected Lagbasan Cave in Senator Ninoy Aquino town in Sultan Kudarat and the caves of Barangay Pinol in Maitum, Sarangani.

The Pinol caves, where nearly 2,000-year old anthropomorphic burial jars were excavated several years ago, had been declared as “important cultural property” under Presidential Decree 374 (Amending certain sections of RA 4846, otherwise known as the “Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act).

Lagbasan Cave is frequented by local and international cave enthusiasts due to its majestic stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, and unique rock formations.

Ancient burial jars made from limestone had been also discovered in the cave. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)

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