Agricultural Ecotourism Dev’t of Sto. Tomas area proposed

20 March 2020 – The City Council approved on first reading a proposed ordinance institutionalizing the agricultural ecotourism development of Bilis, Sto. Tomas Central barangay for the creation of the master plan and community managed agri-ecotourism project.

The ordinance states it will be a policy of the city government to develop and promote city agri-ecotourism destinations to assist barangays with agriculture-related activities for the improvement of livelihood of the farmers and the community as a whole.

The ordinance adds that process starts with the development of a master plan for the said area before any activities are conducted and this will have to be approved and consented by members of Bilis, Sto. Tomas community who will implement it in partnership with the city government and other government and non-government agencies towards a community managed agricultural ecotourism project.

Among the elements of the master plan include the architectural design to include parking walk paths, stopping areas for refreshment and souvenirs, photo points and other areas that the community may want to incorporate.

After the master development plan shall have been formulated, the ordinance stipulates the city government shall designate the location as an agricultural ecotourism area.

Moreover, the development and construction of the agri-ecotourism project shall be funded through city funds and other funds subject to compliance with proper procurement, accounting and auditing procedures and that the funding shall only be determined when the master plan shall have been developed and approved.

According to the proposal, eco-tourism related programs, projects and activities shall be allowed during the summer and dry months and the same shall be closed during the rainy months.

The ordinance authorizes the collection of parking fees, environmental fees, entrance fees, strawberry picking fees, vegetable picking fees, and other fees that will be determined after the construction period.

They ordinance requires the City Mayor to convene a technical working group which shall be composed of the city chief executive, the chairperson of the City Council Committee on Market, Trade, Commerce and Agriculture, City Veterinarian, City Planning and Development Coordinator, the barangay captain and barangay council, city cooperative member, city farmers organization, City Tourism Officer, and city community representative to take charge of the preparation of the master plan.

The ordinance explains that the agricultural and ecotourism project shall be co-managed by the city government and the community for 5 years until it is officially turned over to the community to be managed by a 7-member board composed of city officials and barangay members augmented by organizational personnel that will include a manager, finance officer, bookkeeper among others to ensure that the project will be appropriately handled for the benefit of the community. - Dexter A. See