Rep. Cristina “Chiqui” Roa-Puno (1st District, Antipolo City), principal author of the bill, said the enactment of the bill into law will enable Rizal province to progress and become a first-class tourism area that will drive and propel the economy not only of the province, but of the country as a whole.
HB 8982 seeks to mandate the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to prioritize the development of Rizal province, subject to the rules and regulations governing the development of tourism development areas.
The measure declares that the State shall promote a tourism industry that is ecologically sustainable, responsible, participative, culturally sensitive, economically viable and equitable for local communities.
“With this legislation, provision for the proper mechanisms and infrastructure for sustainable tourism development in the province will be established. Certain areas and sites identified as tourist destinations shall be promoted and developed, keeping in mind the preservation of the ecological balance and natural beauty of the province,” Roa-Puno said.
The bill provides that the DOT, in coordination with the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) and other government agencies, shall then prepare a tourism development plan for Rizal. It shall include the development, maintenance, improvement and restoration of tourist sites, as well as the construction of hotels, resorts, restaurants and recreational facilities, among others.
Meanwhile, the local government unit (LGU), in coordination with the DOT, TIEZA, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other concerned agencies, shall delineate well-defined geographic areas within the tourism development area and coordinate their integrated development for the optimum use of its natural assets, attractions and existing facilities.
The Rizal Tourism Council shall be established to be the primary policy-making, planning and coordinating body in the tourism development and administration of ecotourism sites.
It shall be composed of the following: (a) provincial governor of Rizal, a Chairperson, (b) all mayors of Rizal, who shall elect the Vice Chairperson among themselves, (c) a member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Rizal, and (d) two representatives from the private sector.
In addition, the following shall serve as advisors who will provide assistance and support to the Council: (a) chief operating officer of TIEZA, (b) regional director of the DOT for Region IVA, (c) regional director of the DENR for Region IVA, (d) regional director of the DPWH for Region IVA, and (e) regional director of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for Region IVA.
The Council shall also be directed to ensure that constituencies, sectors and groups, whose interests may be affected by the tourism development, will be given sufficient opportunities to be heard.
To fulfill the aims of this measure, there shall be a Rizal Tourism Development Trust Fund to finance projects that shall enhance tourism in the province. It shall be administered by a Trust Fund Administrator under the Provincial Tourism Office of Rizal.
The bill states that the Trust Fund shall come from fees collected from visitors/tourists, proceeds from the registration and lease of multiple-use areas, including tourism concessions, fees, proceeds and contributions from industries and facilities directly benefiting the province.
Roa-Puno noted many natural wonders are situated within the province, including the Daranak Falls, Palo Alto Falls, Kay Ibon Falls, Masungi Geo-Reserve, Cardona Rock Garden, Daraitan River, Sangab Cave, and Calinawan Cave.
“The province has become one of the favorite trekking sites of mountaineers as they greeted not only by lush forests but also with splendid views of Laguna de Bay and magnificent waterfalls,” she said.
Moreover, Roa-Puno said Rizal province is rich in history and culture sharing that “It is home to the Binangonan/Angono Petroglyphs—artworks believed to be the oldest in the Philippines…The province’s Pamitinan and Binacayan mountains have also been surrounded by folklore…Apart from its fabled past, Rizal likewise holds historical significance as its Pamitinan Cave, declared as a National Geological Monument, is where Andres Bonifacio and other Katipuneros made their pilgrimage and covenant for freedom.”
Aside from these, the province is also known for its grottos, contemplation areas, and prayer gardens flocked by pilgrims and devotees, especially during Lenten Season, she said.