The city government envisions to transform the Big and Little Sta. Cruz Islands into an ‘island-ecosystem that is responsibly and sustainably managed’, developed and protected for the “maintenance and preservation of the natural biological, physical diversities of the environment and for ecotourism promotion”.
Mayor Celso Lobregat said this, as he recently submitted to the Department of Tourism, the Sta. Cruz Islands Management and Development Plan which will serve as the guidebook for the islands’ sustainable development.
Last July 17, then Tourism Secretary Albert Lim and Mayor Lobregat forged an agreement for the takeover of management and development of the two islands in Sta. Cruz from the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), formerly the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) to the local government of Zamboanga. Also acting as signatories were the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-9 and Protected Areas Management Bureau (PAMB).
Mayor Lobregat said the management and development plan of the Sta. Cruz Islands will not only focus on tourism but also on the preservation, protection, conservation and rehabilitation of the islands which are categorized as protected landscape and seascape.
The management and development of the islands will be done by the local government with the involvement of the community and other stakeholders, according to the mayor.
“Our vision for the islands is for it to become a developed ecosystem within the context of a protected area. We will protect, rehabilitate and conserve the islands at the same time develop the ecotourism potentials”, the mayor emphasized. “We have been preparing the management and development plan (for the Sta. Cruz islands) based on previous submissions and we hope to finish this by this week”.
The mayor hinted that the infrastructures to be set up in the area will be the low type infrastructures with the use of indigenous materials in a bid to have little and minimum effect on the environment.
Initially, the existing structures such as the picnic huts, pavilion and other facilities, will be assessed, he said. “These are the things that we will have to look at, repair or rehabilitate it, if not a new one will be constructed but it will not be massive type of infrastructures”.
What the city will ensure initially is the accessibility of the people to the islands, meaning there will be regular trips to the islands. “We will make sure also that the flora and fauna is protected and then the development will come in. We will be putting up a marine laboratory, a watch tower and maybe a pavilion”, the mayor stressed.
He added that the development of the area will be a 3-5 year undertaking. “We will make sure that we will develop Sta. Cruz (islands) and we make sure that we protect the seascape and the landscape”. (Sheila Covarrubias)