Binurong closure leaves 40 tourist guides jobless
posted 18-Nov-2018  ·  
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WHAT STARTED IT ALL. An recent expedition of 4WD vehi-cles sponsored by Koni Philippines and led by Vicente Sorreta, whose family owns the 8.9-hectare property at Binurong Point triggered “irresponsible” reactions from netizens on social me-dia and led to last week’s indefinite closure of the site.

At least 40 tour guides, most of them women, have been denied a means to earn extra income following the decision of the family who owns the nearly nine-hectare property to close public access to Binurong Point indefinitely since last week.

Guinsaanan, Baras barangay chairman Emerito Tariman confirmed to the Tribune that tourist visits to the now popular destination that anywhere from 40 to 60 trained local guides are paid at least P200 each time they take a small group of tourists to the point, particularly during the peak season from April to May when each makes as much as three climbs a day.

During ordinary days, the three-termer village chief said, the 40 guides get to take their turn leading the tourists at least once a week, giving their families an extra P800 for a month.

He said that women residents especially like to take on the job as they are sending children to school and sometimes students are given priority during Saturdays and Sundays.

While only 10 villages actually underwent training on tour guiding from the Department of Tourism, the graduates shared what they learned in an echo training in the barangay. The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), upon Tariman’s request, also conducted a skills training in Guinsaanan on wellness or body massage and handicraft making.

Tariman further said he is still negotiating with the Philippine Red Cross local chapter for the conduct of a training on First Aid and Basic Life Support for the guides.

Small stores offering bottled water and snacks have also sprouted at the hike’s take-off point, providing another revenue stream for enterprising residents.

Tariman traces the scenic point’s discovery to 2015, after which the barangay residents, including the village chief himself, started accompanying curious visitors to Binurong, for free.

“Gapaiba ako dati,” he recalled, adding they did not charge entrance or other fees for the first two months. The tour guiding fee, on the other hand, was voluntary on the part of the tourist but the barangay later agreed with the Baras municipal government and the Provincial Tourism Office that it should be fixed.

When the Tropang Turismo Catanduanes led by noted photographer Ferdie Ocol suggested that an entrance fee should be charged on tourists for the development of the trail and the maintenance of the parking area and the area’s cleanliness, the barangay council agreed and passed an ordinance setting a P25 entrance fee.

“When landowner Pepe Sorreta heard of it, he only told us just to improve the surroundings,” Chairman Tariman disclosed, adding that the elderly veteran sometimes asked them for fish or native food for snacks whenever he visited his farm and they were happy to oblige.

That changed last August when an incident involving one of the cows grazing at the pasture land adjacent to the trail apparently attacked a 12-year old girl.

According to a member of the group, they were hiking on their way back from Binurong point on Aug. 19, a Sunday, when a cow lunged at the girl who was her family. Fortunately, the girl managed to grab the cow’s horns before she was thrown a few meters away, with the tour guide shooing the animal away. The incident proved traumatic for the girl, who barely ate for several days and refused to go to school.

Shortly thereafter, the Tribune learned, Col. Sorreta asked the barangay council to execute a memorandum of agreement in which 50% of the proceeds would go to the family to pay for a caretaker of the pasture land.

The other half will go the barangay, which will use part of it for maintenance expenses.

Prior to the agreement, the barangay had made use of the entrance fee revenues for various barangay projects, Chairman Tariman said. Last year, using the “casco” or wooden keel donated by Col. Sorreta, they spent P60,000.00 from the Binurong funds for the fabrication of a motorized banca intended to ferry tourists to other scenic places like Balacay island.

While the banca, with a capacity of 15 persons, has yet to be utilized for commercial purposed, its recent break-in period travelling out into the ocean yielded a catch of three blue marlins, Tariman added.

Following the closure of Binurong, he told the Tribune last Saturday that he has yet to talk to Col. Sorreta.

“Namundo ngani ako ta yo mga estudyanteng tour guides gaasa dito,” he stressed. “Gapararibod sinda nin Saturday and Sunday ta ya priority mi sinda na makatukad para makakua nin allowance sa one week. Yung ibang tour guides dakula man an tabang ang Binurong.”

“Kaya lang dae man niato mapupugulan na dae ipasara ang Binurong ta makulog ang boot ninda sa mga nababasang komentaryo sa face book, asin sainda ito,” Tariman added.

A former councilor from 1995 to 2001, the village chief says that Guinsaanan is not so much dependent on fishing despite its location by the sea. Most of its population consisting of 142 households relies on abaca and coconut farming for their livelihood.

With an Internal Revenue Allotment of just over P1.4 million this year, the barangay council has identified the repair of its potholed road as well as the paving of a 400-meter stretch of the provincial road from nearby Abihao as priority projects, along with the construction of a 200-meter sea wall to protect its coastal area from erosion.

DRIVING THE LEAD CAR. Teng Sorreta and his pickup truck make it first at the site nearest the first Binurong view point. All of the vehicles that joined the unannounced expedition were equipped with offroad rally shock absorbers supplied by its main sponsor, Koni Philippines.
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