Basilan District Rep. Mujiv Hataman (File photo)

MANILA – Basilan Lone District Rep. Mujiv Hataman on Thursday said the time has come to reap the fruits of the unified efforts and sacrifices that the government and the people of Mindanao have made to achieve peace in southern part of the country.

This as Hataman filed on Nov. 22 filed House Bill (HR) No. 6293 seeking to declare Malamawi Island in the City of Isabela, Basilan as ecotourism zone.

“Panahon na para magbunga naman ang pinagtulung-tulungan at pinaghirapang kapayapaan para sa kapakanan at ika-uunlad ng mga komunidad sa Basilan (The time has come for the hardly won peace to bear fruits for the welfare and progress of Basilan communities),” he said.

He described HR 6293 as “livelihood measure” that would spur economic development of Malamawi Island and its potential as next tourism destination.

“Sa katunayan, madami na ang pumupunta sa Malamawi Island para magbakasyon dahil tunay na napakaganda ng tanawin doon. Ang nakikinabang sa maraming bisita ay ang mga komunidad sa isla sa ilalim ng pagpapatnubay ng lokal na pamahalaan ng Isabela City (In fact, many people are already coming to Malamawi Island to spend vacation because of its beautiful sceneries. The communities in the island under the stewardship of Isabela City government would benefit if more visitors will come),” he said.

Malamawi is a small island in Basilan with a long stretch of white sandy beach on its northern coast, gifted with crystal blue water, refined white sand and breathtaking sceneries.

After tourist arrivals in Isabela City dropped in 2020 and 2019 due to Covid-19 restrictions, these bounced back in October 2022 with 112,275 tourists or nearly half higher compared to pre-pandemic 60,549 arrivals.

“The Malamawi Island in the City of Isabela, Province of Basilan is hereby declared an ecotourism zone. Its development shall be prioritized by the DOT (Department of Tourism), subject to the rules and regulations governing the development of ecotourism zones,” the proposed bill read.

“Within one year after the approval of this Act, the DOT shall, in coordination with the local government units of the City of Isabela … and agencies of the government, prepare a tourism development plan involving the construction, installation, and maintenance of appropriate infrastructure and facilities that shall encourage tourism in the area,” it added.

Any tourism development plan of the DOT should be consulted with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources so that any activities and development to be carried out in the area should conform with the concept of ecotourism.

With the national government’s help, Hataman said Malamawi Island’s deserved prestige can rival that of the country’s great beaches such as Boracay and Siargao. (with reports from Zaldy De Layola/PNA)