KNOWLEDGE TOUR. Participants of a training-workshop on community-based ecotourism development sponsored by the United Nations Development Program-Biodiversity Finance Initiative, in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, at Sibalom Natural Park in Antique. Held May 25 to June 3, 2022, the training equipped stakeholders with concepts on community-based ecotourism as the park has opened as a tourism destination in March. (Photo courtesy of SNP)

SAN JOSE DE BUENAVISTA, Antique – The United Nations Development Program-Biodiversity Finance Initiative (UNDP-BIOFIN) trained select residents, environment officials, and personnel from other government agencies on how to properly care for and nurture the Sibalom Natural Park (SNP).

The SNP, about 12 kilometers away from Sibalom town proper, opened as an ecotourism destination on March 1.

It has a total land area of 12,289.91 hectares, with 5,511.47 hectares covered by Presidential Proclamation 282 and Republic Act 7586, otherwise known as the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act (NIPAS), and an additional 6,778.44 hectares per RA 11038 or the Expanded NIPAS Act of 2018.

It covers 17 villages, namely Cabladan, Cabanbanan, Imparayan, Igpanulong, Indag-an, Bugnay, Villafont, Luna, Bontol, Tordesillas, Tula-tula, Calooy, Bululacao, Lambayagan, Luyang, Igparas, and Valentin Grasparil.

The training-workshop under UNDP-BIOFIN, held May 25 to June 3, taught participants the concept of community-based ecotourism. 

In an interview Monday, SNP Protected Area superintendent Anthony Evangelio said the UNDP-BIOFIN picked the Sibalom park because of its features, available facilities, and organized communities.

“The natural park has been recommended by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Biodiversity Management Bureau-National Parks Division among the 246 protected areas in the Philippines for the training support due to its features and readiness,” he said.

The participants had other activities such as scriptwriting and simulation of guided tour; lecture on ecotourism as business; developing and costing a package tour; management of tourism-related environmental impacts; and managing a community-based ecotourism organization.

“It is necessary that the stakeholders have better understanding of ecotourism and sustainable tourism concepts so that they would be able to preserve the features of the natural park even if it has been opened already to tourists,” Evangelio said. 

Found in the SNP is Rafflesia speciosa, a parasitic plant that is endemic in the Philippines.

It is considered the world’s largest flower, being able to expand to up to 56 centimeters or 22 inches in diameter when in full bloom.

It was discovered in 2000 and is one of SNP’s major attractions.

The Visayan warty pig, Visayan Tarictic Hornbill, Visayan Walden’s hornbill, and Visayan spotted deer also exist at the SNP because of its natural vegetation while century-old trees, such as the Lua-an species, have been preserved inside the natural park.

Among the amenities that are now available are picnic tables, gazebo, and cottages that could cater to families for at least an overnight stay. (PNA)