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PIA Press Release

Sarangani's edu-tourism town draws thousands

MAITUM, Sarangani (16 October) -- By promoting child rights and by protecting its watersheds, this town gets thousands of visitors each year in educational-tourism. Its award-winning Child Friendly Movement (CFM), white-water tubing, heritage and nature-conservation sites are top edu-tourism draws.

Since 2005, the town has received 27 CFM-related group tours from Baguio City, Pampanga, and Banaue.

CFM learners also came from the Surigao provinces, Kidapawan City, Bukidnon, South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Koronadal City, and Davao City, to name a few.

From January to September this year, close to 10,000 tourists have arrived.

Their favorites were the river-tubing facility in barangay New La Union, pawikan sanctuary in Old Poblacion, Lemlunay Research and Learning Center for farmers in Kalaong, and Pinol Cave – origin of man-shaped burial jars dating back to 5 B.C.

A town tour only takes one day. An overnight stay is more than enough to get familiar with this Ilocano and T'boli enclave.

"The new police station is also becoming a tourist attraction," said Beth Palma Gil, the municipal accountant and information officer.

Chief Supt. German Doria, PNP regional director, called it "one of the best" police stations and "far beyond the standards of our regional office" for its cleanliness, orderliness and crime-solution efficiency. Doria cited the police's partnership with the community for this feat.

"Tourists usually drop by this police station. Local children also visit the station because of it is child-friendly," Palma Gil said.

Senior Inspector Geronimo Dimayuga, the chief of police, would let children do some drills in exchange of chocolates and the children love it, she said.

Maitum's eco-tourism spots, child-friendly practices, good governance, and environment initiatives took the Regional Youth Science Camp on September 27-30 here with more than 1,000 delegates. "They appreciated a lot what they saw and they promised to come back," Palma Gil said.

Mayor George Yabes, now serving his last term, has consistently championed his constituents' causes for the environment, child rights and rural development.

Maitum, 107 km. west of General Santos City, has a population of 39,424 today. Its economy was buoyed up by the logging boom in the 60's and 70's. Commercial logging and the Muslim secessionist wars of the 70's have wrought their damage but the town springs back to life time and again.

In 2003, Maitum won the National Award for Most Child-Friendly Municipality. Maitum also gained the 2005 award from Gawad Galing Pook Foundation for promoting child rights.

In 2002, village officials and residents of barangay New La Union fought off a cooperative commercially logging their watershed in the guise of a community-based forest management agreement with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Destruction of 6,613 hectares of forestlands in barangays Zion, Upo and Batian was abated when the illegal loggers and their cohorts at the local DENR were stopped on their tracks.

Barangay New La Union today has become a popular tourist destination for its river-tubing adventure at Pangi River whose headwaters come from the protected forestlands. Pangi River was adjudged in 2003 as one of the cleanest rivers in the country by the Gawad Pangulo sa Kapaligiran.

"I would not forget the water tubing experience," said Tiera Mejos, a student from the University of the Philippines-Mindanao (UP-Min) in Davao City. "I wouldn't hesitate to come back here if I had the time and money," Mejos said.

Another student who joined the September field trip said: "The river tubing was really fun. I really enjoyed riding the 'tube'. It was really a great experience for me."

For Cacay Carreon, the bumpy road to New La Union "gave spice on the trip."

"What I like most are the accommodation, the food, the hospitable people," Carreon said. "Even the truck ride last night to New La Union was a lot of fun, the fireflies that lit the trees and the rocky road made it so much fun. I want to come back here. Next time it will be longer." (PIO Sarangani/PIA SarGen) [top]

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