BONGAO, Tawi-tawi — One of the country’s most majestic and scenic mountains, the Bongao Peak, got a further sprucing-up with the completion of the construction of infrastructures to make access to it easier and friendlier.
Top officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), led by Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman inaugurated the PHP56-million project in July in Bongao Municipality, Tawi-Tawi province.
“These projects are part of our desire to improve the tourism infrastructures in the autonomous Muslim region,” he said.
The project includes an access road, tourist center, concreting of about 750 steps leading to its zenith, installation of railings for support and protection, and construction of resting sheds.
Tourists will register at the visitors’ center, where they will get a briefing about the famous eco-tourism park. An entrance fee of PHP20 is collected for the maintenance budget of the facilities.
The inauguration ceremony was highlighted by a trek to the top led by Gov. Hataman, accompanied by Bongao Mayor Jimuel Que, Provincial Governor Rashidin Matba, and other ARMM and local officials.
“We want to position the beautiful southern island province of Tawi-tawi as one of the best tourism destination sites in the country,” Matba said.
The project was implemented through a Memorandum of Agreement between the regional government and the municipal government of Bongao.
Development of the eco-tourism park, aimed at the preservation and conservation of the area, is one of the priority projects of the Hataman administration.
Bongao Peak is one of the 12 key biodiversity sites in the country, protected by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources under its New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project.
The Peak can be seen from miles around and is a sanctuary for many kinds of wild animals, the most of famous which are rare white monkeys and wild boars that annually migrate to the area from nearby Malaysia.
Tawi-Tawi Province lies adjacent to Sabah, which is thickly forested and is home to renowned orangutans.
Locals call the peak Bud Bongao. They revere it as a sacred spiritual haven, similar to Mount Banahaw in Luzon.
Que said around 1,500 tourists visit the peak every week. Last year, the region’s Tourism department recorded around one million tourist arrivals in Tawi-Tawi.
“There have a been a lot of marathon games we carried out in Bud Bongao,” he said.
To increase visitor and tourist arrivals in the town, Que said the local government will sustain and maintain Bud Bongao and will also conduct activities and projects that will further promote tourism in the municipality.
“As we market Bud Bongao as one of the destination sites on the island province, we are mindful of the ecological balance that we need to achieve. We have to sustain the ecosystem of this majestic mountain,” he said. (PNA)