BAUKO, Mountain Province – Mayor Abraham B. Akilit announced that tourism-related activities in this upland municipality remains suspended until such time that the police and military authorities shall have declared the conflict- areas safe.
The local chief executive admitted that there are still reported sightings of some members of the New Peoples Army (NPA) passing through the remote villages of the municipality en route to other strongholds in the neighboring lowland towns that is why it was a collective decision by the local officials, the police and military that tourism-related activities in areas near the clearing operations will be suspended.
“Our municipality has tremendous suffered a serious setback in terms other effect of the encounter between the police and the communist rebels because it was the source of income of our people, specifically tourism-related businesses, that were disturbed. We cannot afford to be waiting for a long period of time before we will be able to recover from the disturbance that we have suffered,” Mayor Akilit stressed.
The municipal mayor claimed that it was the clear position of the local government that armed groups are not welcome in the municipality so as not to significantly affect the growth of the local tourism industry which was able to get its momentum over the past several years but it is unfortunate that the recent hostilities between the police and communist rebels transpired that brought the locality back to the drawing board in terms of aggressively promoting its scenic and historic tourist destinations.
According to him, the local government heavily invested in coming out with tourism packages to advance the growth of the local tourism industry that is why the hostilities between the communist rebels and the police and military authorities in the municipality has no place considering its serious negative effect to the overall image of Bauko as one of the growing tourist destinations in the country.
Mayor Akilit the reason why ecotourism is the way to spur Bauko’s projected economic growth is the fact that it will be easier to strike a balance between the proposed development of ecotourism destinations and the efforts to preserve and protect the town’s environment which is the key in having good ecotourism destinations.
Bauko plays host to a huge portion of the over 5,000-square kilometer Mount Data National Park that strands from Benguet up to Bontoc, Mountain province wherein it caters to numerous ecotourism destinations like clean waterfalls, majestic and towering trekking destinations, Spanish trails among others that entice nature lovers to include in their itinerary the municipality prior to visiting popular tourist destinations around the region.
Mayor Akilit appealed to the police and military to ensure that the encounter sites will be cleared of the presence of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that will pose a serious threat to civilians who will be frequenting the places to attend to their farms and to tourists who will be visiting the different scenic tourist spots once the areas will be declared as safe by the concerned authorities so that innocent people will be spared from being inflicted with injuries by said explosives planted in the said places.