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House bill declaring Mt. Arayat as tourist destination OK’d
THE House Committee on Tourism chaired by Romblon Representative Eleandro Jesus Madrona on Wednesday approved a bill declaring Mt. Arayat in Pampanga as a tourist destination.
Deputy Speaker and Pampanga 3rd District Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales Jr., author of House Bill (HB) No. 181, told the committee that Mt. Arayat “continues to attract tourists who are nature lovers because of the splendor of the mountain, which, among others, possesses a rich bio-diversity as attested by the recent discovery of new plant species pyrostria arayatensis.”
“It is also the home of Arayat National Park. Located in San Juan Baño, its cool springs, covered by green foliage of trees, offer a family-friendly resting place excellent for swimming and picnic,” Gonzales said.
The mountain is also a hiking destination preferred by mountain climbers from Metro Manila due to its proximity to the National Capital Region (NCR), he said.
Gonzales said Mt. Arayat is likewise “an integral part of the Kapampangan culture since time immemorial, serving as the home of Apung Sinukuan – a local god revered for teaching the art of agriculture and metallurgy to ancient Kapampangans.”
However, he added that Mt. Arayat is neither fully developed nor wholly prepared for receiving flocks of tourists and unregulated developments around it might endanger its ecology to the detriment of residents who depend on it for their livelihood.
Under the bill, the Department of Tourism (DOT) is mandated to prioritize the development of Mt. Arayat as a tourist destination.
The measure mandates the DOT, in coordination with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the provincial government of Pampanga, and the towns of Magalang and Arayat, where the mountain is located, to prepare a tourism development plan for the construction and maintenance of facilities.
Such a plan shall preserve and conserve the natural beauty and resources of the area.
The DOT shall include the plan’s funding requirements in its budget proposal, which would be included in the annual General Appropriations Act.
The Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, the provincial government of Pampanga, and the local governments of Arayat and Magalang would be mandated to issue implementing rules and regulations.
Gonzales said the House had approved the bill in the 18th Congress but the Senate failed to pass it.
“We hope it will be enacted this time,” he said.