Pangasinan townsfolk rediscover mangrove forest
DAGUPAN CITY—After six months in quarantine, residents of Bani in western Pangasinan are rediscovering one of their town’s most treasured natural resources: the Bangrin mangrove marine protected area.
The 42.2-hectare lush forest, which is nestled in the heart of Tambak Bay, has been reopened as a tourism site exclusively for the residents.
“The response of the townsfolk was surprising,” said Rommel Dulay, the town tourism officer.Since its reopening on Sept. 18, the site had been visited by more than 200 residents in the last 10 days.
They hardly visited the area before the coronavirus pandemic but were now looking for a place to relax and ease their stress, Dulay said.The town’s tourism office has encouraged residents to visit the site through a marketing campaign on social media.
“The eco-park offers a peaceful and quiet surrounding that is disrupted only by the chirping of birds and soft whistling of the wind,” a resident said.
According to Dulay, the trip to the site begins with a 30-minute boat ride from the Pataga fish port to the docking area near the forest’s guard house.
“After registration and orientation on the regulations inside the forest, visitors can stroll along the boardwalk towards the middle of the forest,” he said.
Two lanes of boardwalk—one for visitors going in and another for those going out—are being planned to be built in the area to provide enough space for physical distancing.
Along the boardwalk are three “nipa” huts where visitors can rest, eat and take photos of the trees and the birds. Two more nipa huts will be built there.
The eco-park has become a favorite destination of birdwatchers, Dulay said, adding that the Department of Tourism has identified it as a bird sanctuary.
The forest does not only provide shelter to the birds. The water below the tangled roots of the mangroves is home to different species of fish and shellfish like shrimps and crabs.
At least 123 species of migratory birds have been sighted in the forest and some have made it their home. The site also offers a view of birds’ nests perched on mangroves’ branches.
Each visitor has to pay an environmental fee of P30 and a docking fee of P50. A boat ride costs from P800 to P1,200, depending on the number of passengers.
As part of health protocols, senior citizens and those below 21 are not allowed inside the forest although they can stay at the guard house which offers a vantage view of the mangroves.
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