Canyoneering in Kanlaob river: Regulations to take effect this month
Grace Melanie L. Lacamiento (The Freeman) - March 2, 2016 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - While tourism is booming in Kanlaob River in Alegria town, officials believe it has to be regulated to prevent its probable and eventual destruction.

Kanlaob River in Barangay Compostela, Alegria has become popular among adrenaline junkies in the past years and is evident in the influx of local and foreign tourists, who particularly visit the place for its canyoneering activity. 

As of March last year, records of the barangay’s tourism office show that an average of at least 500 to 4,000 guests visit Kanlaob River in a month.

Compostela Barangay Captain Joseph Redula, however, said they fear their thriving tourist destination might soon be destroyed since tourists would reportedly litter, vandalize the canyon walls, and pull the stalactites out. Some endangered species found in the surroundings of Kanlaob reportedly could no longer be found.

He said the continuous increase in the number of guests entering the river has gone out of control and therefore, has to be regulated.

Thus, Redula and other officials passed a barangay ordinance declaring the Kanlaob River as an eco-tourism site of Compostela and will be implementing regulations for its preservation.

They were supposed to launch the ordinance on February 13, but Redula said they received negative reactions from the local tour operators, tour guides, and motorcycle-for-hire drivers, especially from the neighboring barangay.

Redula said some locals, particularly those that are not accredited, resisted against the implementation of the ordinance since limiting the number of tourists in a day would mean a lower income for them.

With the barangay ordinance, only 75 guests are allowed from Tuesday to Friday and 150 persons during Saturday, Sunday, and holidays. The barangay captain may allow additional guests provided that all necessary precautions are taken into consideration.

The Kanlaob River will be closed for canyoneering every Monday to allow the natural ecosystem to rest and cleaned from the wastes left by the guests. If Monday falls on a holiday, the following will be the rest day. 

With the ordinance, the new tour package rate will also increase.

Redula said the rates used to be P500 to P800, adding they expect the arrivals of tourists to decrease with the higher package rate.

The new rate will be at P1,500 each for five guests inclusive of two tour guides, vest, helmet, shoes, motorcycle, barangay certification, user’s fee and entrance fee. P500 of which will go to the tour operator, P200 for the tour guide, P100 to the habal-habal driver, and P500 to the barangay.

The ordinance also requires guests to book with the Alegria Tourism Office at least a week prior to the preferred schedule and to pay 50 percent of the package rate in advance upon booking. Guests will not be reimbursed with their downpayment should they fail to go on their scheduled date but may opt to reschedule.

“Naa man gud times nga mag-kagubot ang mga tour guides, mag-ilogay sa mga guests,” Redula said.

The ordinance also requires only accredited tour operators and trained tour guides to accommodate the guests to ensure their and minimize untoward incidents from happening.

Habal-habal drivers should also have renewed driver’s license and registered motorcycles. They must also secure a barangay clearance before operating.

Redula assured locals that they will not lose their livelihood since they provide trainings for tour guides and assist motorcycle-for-hire drivers to renew their licenses and vehicle registrations.

He said they hope to train 25 to 30 locals within Alegria in addition to nearly 40 skilled tour guides existing at present.

Avelina Guardiario, wife of a tour operator in Kanlaob River, expressed support for the ordinance since it will help conserve the environment.

Avelina said they used to depend on farming as their primary source of livelihood until canyoneering changed their lives. Avelina and Felix have six children.

Avelina and her family live at the entrance point of Kanlaob River. She shared they never expected that it will be patronized by local and foreign visitors.  

Manuel Lodovice, 47, said he is in favor of the ordinance since there are instances where some tour guides would fight over the tourists as they bargain with the guests.

However, he is worried since his take-home pay of P700 a day might be reduced once the ordinance will be implemented. He said it will be beneficial to them so long as the tourists will use Barangay Compostela as their entrance and exit points during the adventure.  Some guests usually start or end in Kawasan Falls in Barangay Matutinao, Badian.

Lodovice said being a tour guide benefits him and his family, who live near the Kanlaob River. He used to earn P350 per day when he worked as a construction worker before he was trained as a tour guide in June last year.

Lodovice said the tour guides have yet to meet and discuss the ordinance.

Redula urge the locals to understand the purpose of the objective and not get blinded with the economic advantage they get from the tourism boom.

Redula pointed out their main objective is to preserve the Kanlaob River so that the future generation will also get to enjoy and explore its wonders.    

“Di nato gusto maguba ang atong kinaiyahan. Atong makita nga after 20 to 25 years, canyoneering gihapon na siya,” he said.

Redula said they will still push through with the implementation of the ordinance come March 15, especially since summer has started.  — (FREEMAN)

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