PAGSANJAN, Laguna—The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Tuesday (June 6) committed its full support to strengthen the local tourism industry of Laguna, as well as in the protection and preservation of the Pagsanjan Gorge National Park (PGNP) where the famed Pagsanjan waterfalls can be found.
Spanning across Pagsanjan, Cavinti, and Lumban, the PGNP is one of the oldest national parks in the country. The national park is also a declared a protected area, covering approximately 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.
On Tuesday (June 6), Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco joined the local chief executives of Pagsanjan, Cavinti, and Lumban in the signing of the tripartite agreement aimed at uniting the stakeholders of the world-renowned Pagsanjan Falls to reinvigorate tourism and to preserve PGNP, and likewise propel hope for the tourism resurgence of Pagsanjan as a source of livelihood to generations of Filipinos.
Held at the Municipal Hall of Pagsanjan, Laguna, Cavinti Mayor Arrantlee R. Arroyo, Lumban Mayor Rolando G. Ubatay, and Pagsanjan Mayor Cesar V. Areza signed the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) where Laguna Governor Ramil Hernandez and DOT-CALABARZON Regional Director Marites Castro served as witnesses.
“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. What I see today, 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,” Secretary Frasco said in her keynote message.
In the same event, the tourism chief also administered the oath of the members of the newly formed Pagsanjan, Cavinti, and Lumban (PACALUM) Tourism Council, which will jointly oversee the operation and regulation of the development and management of tourism activities within the river’s two-kilometer stretch, which passes through 16 barangays. The local communities, in turn, are expected to reap economic benefits from the sharing of profits from income collected from its activities.
30 years in the making
The first tripartite agreement signed by the three towns happened 30 years ago, on July 19, 1993.
According to Pagsanjan Mayor Areza, around 2,000 boatmen were able to sustain the education of their children that time, when tours around the famed Pagsanjan waterfalls has been in demand among travelers. However, as local tourism weakened, it affected the livelihood of their tourism workers.
“Isang [oportunidad] na maitulak ang kasaganahan na ibinibigay ng Pagsanjan Falls. Congratulations sa ating lahat dahil sa aming mga lagda sa kasunduang ito, ating 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,” he said.
The mayor likewise expressed his gratitude to the Secretary as well as to the entire Department for taking the lead in such a historic event, thus, announcing that his family will be donating a 500sqm land in Laguna’s capital, 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.
“Isa pong pagmamalaki at karangalan na ngayon pong araw na ito ay muli po nating maipagpapatuloy ang muling pagkakaibigan ng bayan ng Pagsanjan, bayan ng Cavinti, at ng bayan po ng Lumban. Isa pong pagmamalaki na ngayon po ang simula ng muli po naming pagtutulungan para mapangalagaan at maipagmalaki po muli natin ang ating minamahal na talon,” Arroyo said.
“Kaya muli po ang pagkakapit-kapit kamay natin ay ang pagkakaisa ng tatlong bayan para umangat ang turismo. Ito po ay aangat muli sa pamamagitan ng pagkakaisa po ng lahat, hindi lamang ng tatlong bayan, kundi karatig bayan, para po mailapit sa atin pong mga local tourists at mga foreign tourists na magpunta rito sa ating bayan para po lalong lumaki ang kita ng Pagsanjan Falls, at tulong-tulong po tayo, pagkakaisa, kapit-kamay para lalo po tayong umunlad,” Ubatay said.
For his part, Laguna Governor Hernandez saw the gathering as a symbol of unity for the province, noting that Pagsanjan Falls is not just a tourist destination, but a part of history for every Lagunense.
“Sa pagkakaisa ng tatlong bayan– Pagsanjan, Cavinti, at Lumban–kasama na ang Pamahalaang Panlalawigan at Department of Tourism–ay nakabuo tayo ng kasunduan na magbibigay sa atin ng pantay-pantay at makatarungang benepisyo sa ating ekonomiya, sa ating mga bangkero, at sa kagalingan ng kapaligirang sumasamo sa makulay at makasaysayang talon,” he said.
“Ito ay mga ginintuang sandali sa kasaysayan bilang panahon na namayani ang kahinahunan sa isip, pagmamahal sa bayan at pag-asa sa muling pagsibol ng programa sa turismo na magbubuklod sa ating lahat tungo sa kaunlaran,” the governor added.
More tourism projects for Laguna
To further equalize development of tourism in Laguna, the tourism chief also announced the establishment of a tourist rest area (TRA) in another neighboring town Bay, the revival of the old Pagsanjan Resort which will be through a private-public partnership under the DOT’s infrastructure and enterprise arm, and donating 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. 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 said.
Education grants for Pagsanjan boatmen children
Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Philippines Chapter chair Maria Paz Alberto also came to witness the event. Last month, PATA held a fund-raising fashion show gala for its 50th founding anniversary to help restore and rebuild communities around Pagsanjan waterfalls. Secretary Frasco, together with her husband Deputy House Speaker Duke then pledged P200,000 from their personal funds to support the education of Pagsanjan boatmen’s children.
The tourism chief underscored that apart from helping tourism flourish again to its former glory primarily in the towns of Pagsanjan, Cavinti, and Lumban, she said the DOT is in full support of PATA’s advocacy on tourism education, thus, their personal donation.
She said such an advocacy is close to her heart, recalling how their initiative from Liloan town in Cebu started only with a few scholars in 2008, and now has around 16,000 students benefiting from their personal advocacy by putting education at a premium across the 5th District of Cebu.
During the event, the tourism chief personally handed over their personal donation in cash.
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.