President Duterte signs Balanga Wetland Ecotourism Law

BALANGA CITY — Home to thousands of endemic and migratory birds, the Balanga Wetland and Nature Park (BWNP) is now a community-based ecotourism zone after President Duterte recently signed a law that appropriates funds for development of the coastal sanctuary.

Republic Act No. 11365 or the Balanga Wetland and Nature Park Responsible Ecotourism Act declares BWNP as a special ecotourism zone where the local community has substantial control and involvement in the development and management of the natural area located in Brgy. Tortugas.

Bataan 2ndDistrict Representative Jose Enrique Garcia III said the law provides for better protection of environment and stronger tourism industry, with community participation playing a huge role in the responsible development of the park.

“The Department of Tourism, local government units and various sectors of the community will be our partners in implementing the law,” Garcia said, citing the support of Senator Cynthia Villar in pushing for the legislation.

A multi-sectoral Balanga Wetland and Nature Park Development Council will be created to lead the formulation and implementation of ecotourism plans together with the local residents, businesses and stakeholders.

Balanga City Mayor Francis Anthony Garcia said the law will open up resources such as national government funds to develop the mangrove-bedded park, spruce up security with 24-hour surveillance, and record videos of birds for educational purposes. 

“This is a great news for us and for the City of Balanga, and we’re very excited for the development that this brings us,” Mayor Garcia said.

BWNP serves as the venue of the annual Ibong Dayo Festival, which was a Hall of Famer for the Best Tourism Event—Festival in the city category bestowed by the Department of Tourism and Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines. 

The park, which covers 153,578 square meters of mangrove forest and 187,500 sq. m. of foreshore land, is home to about 9,544 resident and migratory birds, as per the report of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines in February 2019. (CLJD/JMMG-PIA 3 with Patricia Anne Marie S. Salenga-intern)