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The Murcielagos Island Ecological Park

A new eco-tourism destination for Region IX was formally launched by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in coordination with the local government unit of Labason last saturday(November 26, 2011) in Barangay Antonino, Labason, Zamboanga del Norte as various stakeholders present during the occasion pledged for its protection.

The Murcielagos Island Ecological Park was declared an ecotourism destination for its natural beauty and huge potential to attract tourists who would like to experience the true essence of nature in a “paradise where the sea, the moon and the sun meet the horizon”.

It is a part of the 251-hectare Murcielagos Island Protected Landscape and Seascape composed of two islands locally known as Bayangan and Baliudyong Islands located off the coast of Labason in Zamboanga del Norte. These islands are endowed with  white coral-sand beaches and seabeds, unique type of biodiversity and rich marine resources ideal for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, hook and line fishing, bird watching, photography, camping, island tour,  and other beach-type sport activities.

DENR –IX Executive Director Arleigh J. Adorable, in his message during the program at Bayangan Island, said that Murcielagos Island has more attractive features that once fully developed could even match world class tourism sites in the country.

Director Adorable  said that promoting these islands as an ecotourism destination will not only generate awareness for the protection of its natural beauty but also generate income and revenues for the community and the local government unit.

“ There is a need for the various stakeholders such as the DENR, local government unit, and the protected area management board to come out with a good management plan in order to efficiently delineate the island’s protection and multiple use zones”,  Director Adorable added.

Congressman Cesar G. Jalosjos of the 3rd District of Zamboanga del Norte who was present during the affair announced that even though Presidential Proclamation No. 281 declares Murcielagos Islands Protected Landscape and Seascape as a national protected area, he has filed House Bill No. 5116 declaring the island as a protected area and ecotourism site. The said bill has passed its 3rd reading in the House of Congress and is now indorsed with the Senate for approval.

Congressman Jalosjos was very much concern on the protection of the island’s rich marine and terrestrial environment to include the  numerous shore birds that abound that he is pushing for the declaration of the nesting site for marine turtles in the area as an exclusive protected area and the designation of a portion of the island as a marine sanctuary. He pledged to help residents of the island by putting up a wind-power generator and desalination plant  as well as take charge in the seeding of Giant Clams (Tridacna gigas) around the island.

The Department of Tourism in the region headed by Regional Director Mary June Bugante saw the huge potential of the island to generate tourists and has pledged to provide support through the training of local residents on how to handle tourists and the establishment of tourist-oriented establishments. She also suggested that efforts should be concentrated more on the protection aspect with lesser impact to physical development in order to preserve the natural beauty of the island.

Also present during the occasion were Labason Mayor Wilfredo Balais, representative of ZDN Governor Atty. Jess Samonte, PAWCZMS RTD Dioscoro Melana, PENRO Carlito Tuballa, CENRO Ariel Barrientos, Atty. Aniceto Sarunday, PAMB members, LGU officials of Labason, Fisherfolks Association, PNP, DENR-IX regional, provincial and CENRO Liloy personnel and local residents.

Murcielagos Island Ecological Park is accessible by bus or van from Zamboanga City (4.5 hours), Dipolog City (3 hours), Pagadian City (4.5 hours) to Labason, Zamboanga del Norte. From the mainland of Barangay Antonino, it will take around 30 minutes to reach the islands via motorized pumpboats.

By R. Tan, DENR-IX RPAO News Release

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