The official website of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines
The official website of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines

Back to Home

A new face of Pangasinan ecotourism

By Gabriel Cardinoza
Inquirer Northern Luzon
8:07 pm | Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

The San Roque Dam that was blamed for the widespread flooding in eastern and central Pangasinan as Typhoon “Pepeng” struck in 2009 is gearing to become the new face of ecotourism in the province.

The dam in San Manuel town, touted as Asia’s second largest water containment facility, will soon have a reservoir cruise.

And this adventure promises a new experience for tourists, especially nature lovers, says Tom Valdez, vice president for corporate social responsibility of San Roque Power Corp. (SRPC).

“It will be more than just a sightseeing tour,” says Valdez shortly after former President Fidel Ramos and Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Toshinao Urabe launched on Monday the first reservoir boat, a thatch-roofed, wood-decked, nipa hut-inspired craft pushed by a small motorized tugboat.

40 bird species

The reservoir, which boasts a surface area of 12.8 square kilometers, offers not only the scenic views of the Cordillera and Caraballo mountains and the beauty of its serene water, but the joy of bird watching as well.

Valdez says the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) found during a visit in 2008 that more than 2,000 Philippine ducks (Anas luzonica) now live in the reservoir area.

In a trip report posted in the WBCP website, the eight-member group composed of birders recorded seeing more than 40 bird species, nine of them endemic, during a three-day tour.
The endemic species, aside from the Philippine duck, included the pygmy swiftlet
(Collocalia troglodytes), blue-headed fantail (Rhipidura cyaniceps), red-keeled flowerpecker (Dicaeum australe), Philippine bulbul (Hypsipetes philippinus), Philippine coucal (Centropus viridis), Philippine cuckoo-dove (Macropygia tenuirostris), white-eared brown dove (Phapitreron leucotis) and spotted buttonquail (Turnix ocellata).

During Monday’s launch, a temporary dock was built behind the dam’s spillways. Valdez says each cruise can last the whole morning or the whole day that can take visitors to the other side of the reservoir in Benguet.

Ramos, a native of Asingan town, says he and his children once took a speedboat ride on the reservoir and reached Itogon, Benguet, 17 kilometers from the dock.

“We really hope that we could open this to the public very soon,” Valdez says.

Ecology talk

He says SRPC is finalizing the plan and the objective is for the community to handle that as part of their livelihood. The “community” he was referring to are the residents displaced by the dam that have been relocated in various resettlement sites in San Manuel.

Valdez says a guide will be trained to talk during the cruise about the ecology of the reservoir and watershed and their importance in irrigation and in providing power for the country.

“The guide can also talk about the engineering of the San Roque Dam, the relevance of the watershed and its impact on climate change and even on the history of the dam,” he says.
Gov. Amado Espino Jr. says he is happy that the project, which was conceptualized in the late 1990s while the power plant component of the dam was being built, is finally beginning to be realized.

Espino was Pangasinan police director at the time of the dam’s construction and was involved in its “social engineering.” “This is a big boost to the overall effort toward the realization of our vision of Pangasinan as the best place to invest, work and live and raise a family,” he says.

He says it should not be difficult for the San Roque Dam to attract tourists because it already has accommodation facilities. SRPC has a housing village, including a clubhouse with a swimming pool and restaurant, that is available to its visiting executives and visitors.
Valdez says the immediate thing to do is to work out a plan with the National Power Corp. (Napocor), which is in-charge of the watershed and the reservoir.

He says the cruise will complement Napocor’s program to promote ecotourism and at the same time encourage people to protect the watershed.