Development of ecotourism sites in South Cotabato’s Lake Holon starts

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, June 10 — The municipal government of T’boli in South Cotabato is closing down the ecotourism sites at the famed crater-lake Holon for at least nine months to pave the way for the area’s rehabilitation and improvement.

Rodel Hilado, T’boli municipal tourism officer, said Tuesday the local government decided to totally shut down the entire 304-hectare Lake Holon to visitors and any activity to ensure the proper implementation of its comprehensive rehabilitation and development program for the area.

He said the area’s closure will begin on June 15 and will extend until March 15 next year, in time for the town’s foundation anniversary.

“This is in preparation for the improvement and the rehabilitation of the area as well as the preparation of the community for the possible influx of tourists in its reopening next year,” he said.

During the nine-month closure, Hilado said the local government will rehabilitate the established camping sited situated near the banks of the lake.

He said they will build new resort facilities like view decks and cottages in partnership with some local private investors.

The lake, which is formerly known as Lake Maughan, is nestled within the biodiversity-rich Mt. Melebingoy.

The lake was recognized by the national government in 2003 and 2004 as the country’s cleanest inland body of water.

Mt. Melebingoy, which is an active volcano, is part of the 92,450-hectare Allah Valley Watershed Forest Reserve.

The area is considered as among the area’s last frontiers with around 5,000 hectares of still intact forest cover as well as diverse flora and fauna.

Aside from Lake Holon, which is located in Barangay Salacafe of T’boli, Hilado said the local government is planning to develop four other villages in the area into ecotourism destinations.

He specifically cited the Bakngeb Cave in Barangay Laconon, the hot spring in Lamhaku, Hidak and Hikong Kemebel Falls in Kematu and the preserved T’boli cultural community in Tudok.

In preparation for the lake’s rehabilitation and improvement, Hilado said experts from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts earlier came to the area to conduct historical and cultural mapping.

He said the activity includes an in-depth research on the rich culture and traditions of the T’boli tribe, especially its art, beliefs and practices.

“As we improve the area, we deemed it necessary to also ensure that the people in the community are prepared and should be the ones who will gain more from these initiatives,” he said.

The provincial government of South Cotabato had allotted an initial P5 million for the construction of various tourism facilities at the lake as part of its improvement.

Cesar Sulit Jr., South Cotabato tourism officer, said such move is part of the local government’s continuing efforts to develop the crater-lake as a premiere ecotourism destination.(PNA)