Paradise rises from Yolanda-hit area

By Jeo Angelo Chico Elamparo,

Posted at Jun 21 2014 04:39 PM | Updated as of Jun 22 2014 06:00 AM

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MANILA – With a little help from ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, Inc. (ALKFI)’s Bantay Kalikasan program, paradise-like destinations Sohoton Cave and Balintak Falls will be preserved and, subsequently, promoted as tourist sites starting this year.

Sohoton Cave and Balintak Falls are located in Basey, Samar which, until now, is still recovering from the devastation wreaked by typhoon Yolanda late last year.

The preservation of the two areas is a joint-effort between the ALKFI's Bantay Kalikasan program, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the local government of Basey, Samar, led by Mayor Igmedio Ponferrada.

ALKFI media relations manager Ana Junio said that the promotion of the ecotourism sites is important in calamity-hit areas for it also leads to the creation of job opportunities.

“The point of the preservation of the sites is to provide livelihood while sustaining the environment. We want to maintain the environment while creating jobs.”

Junio said that with preserving the Sohoton Cave and Balintak Falls, ALKFI hopes to replicate the success it made in preserving and promoting Ugong Rock, a tourist destination in Puerto Princesa, Palawan which has become popular among tourists.

She added that in just a year, the Ugong Rock has made a revenue of roughly P23 million.

“We championed the Puerto Princesa site so we are trying to duplicate it with the Sohoton Cave project. Sagip Kalikasan also has ecotourism projects in places like Romblon, Bicol [and so on].”

Meanwhile, aside from a patrol boat, ALKFI also pledged to shoulder the training of several personnel who will be in-charge of patrolling the body of water and protecting its marine biodiversity from harm and destruction.

The tourist destinations are now considered protected areas, according to the Samar Island Natural Park – Protected Area Management Board.

Already popular among the locals, the Sohoton Cave boasts of different awe-inspiring rock formations and a pristine river that can surely attract tourists outside Samar.

Junio also revealed that Bantay Kalikasan is also planning on exploring the culture and cuisine of Samar and have them brought near the ecotourism destinations in order to attract more tourists.

The move to preserve the destinations is a part of Bantay Kalikasan’s Green Initiative project, which according to the organization, is “a movement that aims to nurture and protect the environment with pathways that ultimately benefit the communities living in the area.”

ALKFI, on the other hand, through its other initiatives, covers other projects and endeavors for Yolanda-hit areas including rebuilding schools, setting-up livelihood programs and distributing relief goods.