DavNor caves set for conservation, ecotourism

Subscribe Now April 13, 2013 at 10:28pm

Tourism and local government leaders have prepared conservation and ecotourism programs to save several hundred caves in this southern Mindanao province from further degradation and to attract tourists to the still-pristine ice formations inside them.

Some of the caves spread in many of the province’s 11 towns have been home to bats, many have been abandoned and local residents have bore holes to tap the water inside for drinking, spelunkers and cave conservationists said in the 13th National Caving Congress held in this city from April 8 to 12.

Gov. Rodolfo del Rosario said the province would allocate budget to items that the caving congress would deem important for conservation but he said he would ask the Department of Tourism (DOT) to endorse whatever other major recommendations that may come up after the congress and actual cave observation in New Corella town.

A map developed by the planning unit of New Corella has indicated the need for access roads and connecting highways to link all the caves in the town, and del Rosario said that the Department of Public Works and Highways is expected to undertake transportation routes.

He said the untapped caves might offer yet a unique attraction for the towns of Davao del Norte although the caves of its island resort of Samal has already been listed on the Guinness Book of World Records for having hosted more than 2 million fruit bats.

Dorina Ararao, president of the Speleo Davao Inc., said the 13th Philippine Speleological Society Cave Congress would recommend to local governments better caving and management measures to preserve the undisturbed caves, and to manage the other caves from deteriorating and improve its ecological-tourism value.

Many of the caves, she said, still have the same quality of stalactites and stalagmites found in other caves in the world and some of the caves were connected to each other, at least in New Corella, where earlier explorations were done.

“But some caves, due to having pristine resources, mostly water, have lured residents into tapping them as main source of drinking water,” Ararao said. “In some of them, we have persuaded local authorities to dismantle water pipes that residents have bored into the caves to extract water,” she said.

Before the congress, she said interventions have included ordering residents to remove the septic tanks built atop the caves, and delineating other caves from further human disturbance.

She said caves have their own archaeological, botanical and biological importance with the discovery of prehistoric jars and other crude implements in one of the big caves in Maitum, Sarangani province, and of the fossils in caves in Palawan.

“Their botanical or biological significance comes from the decline, or the vanished species of bats in these caves,” she said. “In many caves, we found only the imprints of their previous presence.”

The bats’ increments, the guano, were not only valuable for their rich fertilizer content. “They are rich nutrition materials for many insects, many of them we may not come to know because they may have become extinct before humanity have ever discovered and tagged them,” she said.

The congress has attracted the participation of 13 clubs of spelunkers and cave conservationists in the country.

Ararao said both the DOT and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources have their respective templates at managing the caves prior to the congress, and she said that the caving clubs have already asked them to synchronize them and find common points.

“We want to come up with a single template at cave management and conservation,” she said.

Del Rosario also told the congress that he hoped the conservation and tourism program would ensure that local residents would be tapped in a stewardship concept.

“We want the local population to benefit from whatever we can derive from both conserving the caves and to draw in tourists,” he said.

Source: businessmirror.com.ph

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