Tourists told to get camping, hiking permits

MT. BULUTINAO in San Joaquin, Iloilo is a popular hiking and camping site for tourists, especially during Holy Week. Local government units in southern Iloilo asked campers and hikers to secure permits for their own safety amid recent clashes between state troopers and rebels. (Photo courtesy of Erlyn Alunan, San Joaquin Tourism Officer)

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

Local government units (LGUs) of Miagao and San Joaquin in Iloilo encouraged tourists and even locals who plan to go trekking and camping in their mountains this Holy Week to first coordinate with their offices following the advisory of the Philippine Army.

The Army recently issued an unofficial advisory for tourists to refrain from mountaineering activities in the towns of Miagao, Igbaras, and San Joaquin after the series of armed clashes between the government forces and the New People’s Army (NPA) in Miagao, Igbaras, and Calinog.

In an interview, San Joaquin Tourism Officer Erlyn Alunan appealed to tourists and hikers to coordinate and secure permits from the LGU before hiking or camping on the mountains.

“Those who plan to go here and camp, we encourage them to coordinate with the LGU before sila magkadto didto considering sang advisory. Before sila magsaka and be accommodated sa mga barangays, they should have a permit acquired from the Office of the Mayor,” Alunan said.

Once they secure the permits, Alunan said they would endorse tourists to the barangays where they will be provided with guides and people in authority to ensure their safety.

She lamented that they have no control over tourists and locals who fail to secure permits and coordinate with their office.

 “Kun indi na sila mag-agi sa amon, we have no way of knowing kun pila sila kabilog kag kun diin sila makadto, wala kami control over that,” she said.

Even before the Army advisory, Alunan said that they have been ensuring the safety of tourists, especially during Lenten season.

“Maskin wala pa advisory, we would like to reiterate that we in the LGU have been exerting precautionary measures especially kun panahon sang lent,” she said.

According to Alunan, their town expects many tourists who will not only go hiking and trekking, but also visit some of their ecological destinations especially in the Holy Week.

Tourists would usually go to Pan-ay, a shared territory of Miagao and San Joaquin where the access point is at Brgy. Ginot-an in San Joaquin, Alunan said.

“Damo gakadto sa amo ni nga panahon because we have so many ecological destinations in San Joaquin, we have caves, we have mountains, waterfalls and many more,” she said.

During this month, Alunan said many barangays celebrate their fiestas across the town and some guests would usually visit their friends and relatives. 

Alunan added that they have been maintaining close coordination with the barangays, informing them to accommodate tourists and observe precautionary measures, especially in Geographically Isolated Areas (GIAs).

“We know that our tourists will be affected but we respect the advisory. Ever since, we have always maintained nga ang amon barangays informed nga whenever may bisita magkadto sa ila barangay, they should be accommodated and given utmost precautionary measures especially sa mga layo or GIAs,” she said.

Meanwhile, Miag-ao Mayor Macario Napulan also encouraged tourist and locals to coordinate with their office before hiking or going to tourist spots.

For the longest time, Napulan lamented that locals and tourists would usually visit the tourist spots even without coordination with their office.

“Ang common sa amon nga nagakadto diri, wala ga-coordinate sa munisipyo so indi namon ma-control, nagakadto na lang sila or nagatabok sa bukid without permit,” he said.

Napulan added that tourists and locals during Lent would go to some of their tourist spots in Tinagong Dagat and Rice Terraces as part of their tradition.

“Damo gakadto didto gakadto nga tourists especially this time, kinaandan and tradisyon nga ang mga taga-diri, not only tourists, but also locals from neighboring towns usually didto sila gakadto sa Tinagong Dagat, Rice Terraces kay amo na ila panaad during Holy Week, dira sila gapamalandong,” he said.

Following the advisory, Napulan said they have been in close coordination with the Philippine Army and their barangays.

Meanwhile, the municipal mayor urged tourist and locals to visit the other tourist attractions in Miagao which are not too far from the town proper. 

“Damo pa man di tourist attractions like Hablon, Watchtower, and Miagao Church. We also have pottery and weaving industries pwede man sila di kalagaw and secure man ang lugar,” he noted.