Tourism stakeholders are elevating the promotion and preservation of the Pagsanjan Gorge National Park (PGNP), home to the famed Pagsanjan waterfalls, to attract renewed interest among travelers.
In a ceremony in Laguna on June 6, Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco witnessed the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) among the local executives of the towns of Pagsanjan, Cavinti, and Lumban in Laguna province which that would unite stakeholders to protect and revitalize tourism in the PGNP.
The PGNP is one of the oldest national parks in the country and has been declared a protected area, covering about 152 hectares around a series of gorges on the Pagsanjan River leading to the famed Pagsanjan waterfalls which can be seen in between lush landscape and towering cliffs accessible only by dugout canoe.
Cavinti Mayor Arrantlee Arroyo, Lumban Mayor Rolando Ubatay, and Pagsanjan Mayor Cesar Areza signed the trilateral deal.
“It has been said that a person’s will is like water. It is unstoppable. It will pass through mountains like a waterfall – like the Pagsanjan Falls – and it will always get to where it needs to go. It will find a way,” Frasco said in her keynote message.
“What I see in the signing of this memorandum of agreement among the three local government units with the support of the provincial government, is the sheer will and strength of spirit of the people of Laguna that refuse to be defeated by the many crises, difficulties, challenges and even the passing of time; all these in your determination to value that which God has given and that which has been a source of livelihood for the people of the three municipalities, and for the province — Pagsanjan Falls,” she added.
The first tripartite agreement by the three towns was signed 30 years ago on July 19, 1993.
At the time, Areza said around 2,000 boatmen sustained the education of their children as tours around the famed Pagsanjan waterfalls were in-demand activities for travelers.
The decline in local visitor arrivals over the years, however, affected the livelihood of tourism workers in the municipality.
“Isang [oportunidad] na maitulak ang kasaganahan na ibinibigay ng Pagsanjan Falls (Efforts to rejuvenate activities within the falls is a great opportunity),” he said.
“[A]ting ipinagtitibay ang ating pagtutulungan at pagdadamayan na itaas at patatagin ng ating memorandum of agreement dahil ito ang magbibigay ng magandang bukas sa ating mga kababayan (We are increasing cooperation to strengthen this MOA which can provide good future to our people),” he added.
The mayor also thanked the DOT for taking the lead and announced his family’s decision to donate a 500-square-meter land in Calamba for the regional operations of the DOT.
Both the mayors of Cavinti and Lumban also expressed their appreciation to the DOT as well as their individual commitment for tourism to flourish in their respective towns.
Ubatay encouraged other towns to join in the promotion efforts to draw both domestic and foreign tourists to Pagsanjan Falls and the entire Laguna.
Meanwhile, Frasco announced the establishment of a tourist rest area in the neighboring town of Bay, the revival of the old Pagsanjan Resort through a private-public partnership under the DOT’s infrastructure and enterprise arm, and the donation of more boats for the Pagsanjan boatmen.
“Our President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. articulated that under his administration, tourism is a priority. And that one of the objectives of the Department of Tourism under the National Tourism Development Plan is to equalize tourism promotions and development,” she said.
“This means to not only concentrate our efforts on the already successful and well-known destinations at present, but also to lend our hand of collaboration to the emerging tourist destinations where we can provide equal opportunities for tourism development so that no one is left behind in the resurgence of tourism for the Philippines,” she added.
Aside from DOT, Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Philippines Chapter is also helping restore and rebuild communities around the Pagsanjan waterfalls.
In a PATA-led fundraising fashion show gala last month, Frasco and her husband Deputy House Speaker Duke also pledged PHP200,000 from their personal funds to support the education of Pagsanjan boatmen’s children.
With Pagsanjan’s proximity to Metro Manila, PATA identified the attraction as a tourist magnet, particularly for the South Korean foreign market, which is currently the top source of international arrivals for the Philippines. (PNA)