Monday, December 1, 2014

New CamSur tourism plot takes old path to world’s smallest fish habitat
By Danny O. Calleja (Feature)

BUHI, Camarines Sur, Nov. 25 (PNA) -- The old path leading to this hinterland Bicol town that is home to the world’s smallest fish locally called “sinarapan” is now being revisited so that its idyllic features get the attention of the present-day tourism world.

The recently formed Rinconada Tourism Development-Technical Working Group (RTD-TWG) is into this as it currently crafts an urgent tourism plan that would comprehensively promote the impressive tourism potentials of the locality and all the still-overlooked exciting destinations in the neighboring towns covered by the province's fifth congressional district called the Rinconada Area.

The district covers, apart from this municipality, the City of Iriga and the towns of Nabua, Baao, Bato, Balatan and Bula.

The TWG is composed of planning and tourism officers of each of these local government units (LGUs).

Rey Lacoste, this town’s mayor, worked on the formation of the group as the district’s contribution to the tourism development initiatives being undertaken by the “Triple C” cluster, the alliance of the provinces of Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes as one of the two Bicol’s Tourism Development Areas (TDAs).

These TDAs, one of which is the Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon Tourism Alliance (AlMaSorTA), were formed by the Bicol Regional Tourism Council (BRTC) the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) 2011-2016 National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP). In the clustering, where strategic directions and programs that would make local tourism products more competitive are formulated under the NTDP, every part of the region is recognized a tourist attraction, according to DOT Regional Director for Bicol Maria Ong-Ravanilla, who also heads the BRTC as chair.

AlMaSorTA is designed to achieve development not only in the mainland provinces of Albay and Sorsogon but also in the island of Masbate, while the collaborative efforts of the three provinces in the Triple C is expected to contribute largely in propelling the influx of tourists into the region by leaps and bounds, with continued drive and exposure -- making the potential for growth unbounded.

While calling the Triple C “Gems of the Pacific” for its geographical location which is along the rim of the Pacific Ocean, Ravanilla brands AlMasorta, which was formed last year, as the “Soul of the South” of Philippine tourism industry being at the southern tip of Luzon.

The Triple C, which was formed by the BRTC last September, is composed of two sub-TDAs -- the Caramoan-Catanduanes Tourism Link (CCTL) covering the tourism town of Caramoan, Camarines Sur and the entire Catanduanes area; and the Camarines Tourism Circuit (CTC) that covers the rest of Camarines Sur and the whole of Camarines Norte.

For the CCTL, Caramoan, which lies at the northeastern tip of Camarines Sur separated by Maqueda Channel from the island-province of Catanduanes, covers the Caramoan Peninsula where a group of exotic islets serving as a major ecotourism destination sits.

Catanduanes, on the other hand, is a pearly island in the Pacific that is a promising travel destination owing to its ecotourism wonders, dive sites and sea surfing venues along its long string of palm-fringed beaches backed by jungle-covered mountains and crowned with jewel-like islets.

For the CTC, Camarines Sur has been a long-time tourist destination with its Camarines Water Sports Complex (CWC) and Peñafrancia Festival of Naga City, while Camarines Norte is famous for its Bagasbas Beach and Calaguas Islands, known for its pristine beaches of a long stretch of powdery white sand.

“The CCTL appears to be limited only to Caramoan that belongs to the Partido Area or the fourth district insofar as Camarines Sur is concerned. What we want here is the inclusion of the Rinconada Area as a sub-TDA where workable strategies in order to come up with a tour package involving all its LGUs is put in place,” Lacoste said.

For its Lake Buhi, the home to sinarapan (Mistichthys luzonensis) which is recognized by the Guinness World Record as the world’s smallest commercial-harvested fish, he said, this town will serve as the tourism center for the proposed sub-TDA.

The lake is an 18-square-kilometer body of fresh water with an average depth of eight meters and sits in an exotic valley formed by two ancient volcanoes -- Mt. Iriga and Mt. Malinao.

Unconfirmed historical accounts show that the lake appeared when a massive earthquake in 1614 caused the collapse of one side of Mt. Iriga whose resulting landslide created a natural dam that blocked the flow of nearby streams.

The Buhi Lake System is an extremely-high critical area for biodiversity, according to the Philippine National Biodiverstiy Strategy and Action Plan.

Aside from the sinarapan, the lake it is also home to seven other native fish species—goby (Redigobius dispar), snakehead murrel or dalag (Channa striata), climbing perch or puyo (Anabas testudines), half-beak (Hemiramphus sp.), slender giant moray or burirawan (Strophidon sathete) and native hito (Clarias sp.).

At least four other fish species -- Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus), karpa or common carp (Cyprinus carpio) and Bangkok hito (Catfish, Clarias sp.)—have been introduced and now thriving in lake, boosting its inland fisheries production.

The lake’s surrounding forest, meanwhile, is home of at least 25 birds species, five of which are endemic species -- Philippine pygmy woodpecker, Philippine hanging parrot, elegant tit, black-nape monarch and white-eared brown dove.

Other rare wildlife such as flying lizards (Draco sp.), skinks (Fam. Scincidae), monitor lizard (Varanus salvator), civet cats, bats, long-tailed monkeys (Macaca fasicularis) also thrive at the same forests.

In Legazpi City, Ravanilla on Monday said she welcomes the initiative of the RTD-TWG.

“As we in the BRTC have been advocating, every part of Bicol is a tourist attraction and Rinconada Area, with its Lake Buhi and all its other tourism wonders, is also what the Triple C cluster is all about,” she stressed.

Improvement of market access, connectivity, destination infrastructure; and enhancement of tourism institutional, governance and industry manpower capabilities, Ravanilla added, are the primary strategies that the BRTC is instituting in the cluster. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS