January 30, 2024
TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte, Philippines — The municipal government of Matuguinao in Samar province is now seeking funding to develop its cold spring and pristine cave as an ecotourism site in a bid to transform the image of the town that used to be a haven of communist rebels into a safe and relaxing place for visitors.
Matuguinao Mayor Aran Boller said he asked P45 million in financial support from the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza), an attached agency of the Department of Tourism tasked to construct tourism-related infrastructures.
The amount, he said, would be used to develop the Salpan Cave and cold spring in Barangay Barruz, located about 3 kilometers from the town proper.
“We want to develop the Salpan Cave and cold spring and make it a tourist destination so we can generate income for our municipality and at the same time help provide livelihood for our people,” Boller said.
More visitors wanted
As part of the development plan, the town mayor said they intended to construct a path bridge, pathway, storage area and grouted riprap leading the cave area; and install solar lights and other amenities in the area.
“I want Matuguinao to be known, not as a terrorism-infested area, but as a tourist destination,” he said.
Matuguinao, about 62 km from Catbalogan City, the provincial capital, boasts of natural cold springs and several caves.
Last year, about 11,390 mostly domestic tourists visited the town’s Matugnaw and Maslog cold springs, which generated an income of over P287,000 for the local government.
The tourism revenue has been a big help to the town populated by only 7,364 people (based on 2020 census), where about 40 percent of its population is living in poverty, based on the 2018 survey by the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Free from influence
In previous years, the town was known to be among the lairs of the New People’s Army (NPA), with all of its 20 barangays under the influence and control of the rebels.
At present, all villages are free from the influence of the NPA, although four villages are under monitoring due to attempts of the rebels to regain control over these areas, the mayor said.