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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Top tourism spot in N. Ecija padlocked

A top tourist spot in Nueva Ecija was ordered closed by local officials for alleged violation of various environmental laws.

General Tinio Mayor Isidro Pajarillaga also called on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to revoke its agreement with a private firm that operates the Minalungao National Park.

Pajarillaga asserted that the General Air Logistics Corp. (GALCO) which operates the Minalungao National Park, has no business permits, including building and occupancy permits.

The mayor also cited that several natural rock formations inside the park were removed to give way for infrastructure projects, which clearly destroyed protected areas inside the Minalungao national park, which is  situated in General Tinio, Nueva Ecija,  a popular tourist spot in the Central Luzon region.

In 2003, the DENR, represented by Protected Area management Board (PAMB) chairman and Regional Executive director Regidor De Leon executed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with GALGO Vice President for operations Rey Aviles  to preserve, develop, operate and manage the recreational park for 25 years.

“However, with the agreement, GALCO immediately initiated infrastructure projects within the tourist spot, constructing hotel, view decks, pathways and other buildings that were not coordinated with the local officials of General Tinio,” the letter stated.

It said that despite lack of business permits and other regulatory permits from the LGU, GALCO resumed its operations, attracting more than 10,000 local and foreign visitors daily, which is approximately 116 kilometers northeast of Metro Manila.

“Because of its proximity to the National Capital Region and unique landscape it became a haven for travelers who want to enjoy the stunning beauty of nature. Minalungao National Park is a three to four hours drive from Manila and it’s a cheap destination for a summer getaway,” the LGU said.

Meanwhile, DENR officer Artemio Almazar  said it will review the MOA entered with GALGO and assured the local officials of General Tinio that it will look into its concern that environmental compliance was followed.

Minalungao National Park is considered one of the few remaining natural environments in the Central Luzon region. It was said that the national park was named as such due to the conjunction of two native words “Mina” and “Lungao” which means mines of gold in caves.

Moreover, the park has one of the greenest rivers in the Philippines which is the Sumacbao River which is home to a pristine limestone formation. Vito Barcelo

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