The Department of Tourism (DOT) has vowed to enhance “heritage tourism” to attract tourists to visit key historical sites in the Zamboanga Peninsula.
“Zamboanga Peninsula is so rich in heritage. There’s a lot of historical events that have been forgotten,” DOT regional director Antonio Fernando Blanco said.
Zamboanga Peninsula boasts of several historical sites such as Fort Pilar Shrine in this city, which was built in the 17th century by the Spaniards, and the Rizal Shrine in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte.
The Dapitan City government earlier launched “The Rizal Trail” to allow visitors to experience and understand the life spent by Dr. Jose Rizal, the national hero, during his exile there from 1892 to 1896.
The region also has other significant plazas and landscapes, which were built by former colonizers, the Spaniard and Americans, he said.
Meanwhile, Blanco said there is also an ongoing effort to discover new potential ecotourism sites across the region, including caves and waterfalls.
Blanco said that Pagadian City and Naga town, both in Zamboanga del Sur, have potential for river cruise tourism.
He said they are linking with the concerned local government units and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to ensure that the potential and existing tourist sites will be protected.
Blanco said most of their new projects are community-based.
“We want to uplift the livelihood and the capacity of the people to earn more through tourism,” he said.
Data from the DOT regional office showed that roughly 80 percent of Zamboanga Peninsula’s natural resources are still “semi-virgin.”
The DOT earlier identified the 344-hectare Cogon Eco-tourism Park in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte and the 17,414- hectare Pasonanca Natural Park in this city as “great ecotourism sites in the region.”
Both parks are still intact with secondary and old-growth dipterocarp forests. The ecology serves as breeding ground for endemic birds species, forest animals such as wild boars, deers and wild cats, and reptiles in the watershed areas.
Other existing ecotourism sites in the region are the Pulong Bato in Abong-Abong Park and the La Paz mountains in this city; Lakewood Reserve and Lison Valley in Zamboanga del Sur; Brown Plantation and Botanical Heritage Park and Linabo Peak in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte; and, the Lapuyan Cultural Village in Zamboanga del Sur.
The region also has a 700-kilometer long coastline.
Blanco said they are also eyeing to enhance culture-rich areas in the region.
“We are looking at the Subanen (tribe) in the town of [Sergio] Osmeña, [Zamboanga del Norte]. We want to preserve their culture and the way the life (even if we develop them as tourist destinations),” he said. (PNA) TPGJR/DWTW