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Reviving the glory of Masao River

The Masao River is a witness to the culture, tradition, and evolution of the city of Butuan in the Caraga region, as this body of water serves as the great spectator of its journey from humble beginnings to its current urbanization.

Carved in history, this river was the cradle of civilization where merchants and natives long time ago used this river as the center of trade, livelihood, and diplomatic relations, among others. Approximately two million years after, the Masao River is on the brink of evanescence.

An eyeful of Masao River in Butuan City, Caraga. Photo: Karl Brando Mero

The comeback

The National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), together with other government agencies, non-government organizations, and civil society organizations conducted an exploratory and consultative meeting for the proposed Masao River Eco-Cultural Tourism Development Project designed to revitalize and restore the local biodiversity and life of the river. It also aims to transform the river as a center for eco-tourism and provide green jobs for economic development; educate the public on the cultural significance of the river; and promote its culture and heritage.

Lead convenor and National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Secretary Lope Santos III considered the activity as a very significant step, as various sectors shared and provided relevant inputs and strategies on how to further develop the stretch of the Masao River in Butuan City.

"We have a lot of resources in Masao River which we could convert into tourist destinations and create potential jobs for the locals. For now, we have identified 13 barangays to directly benefit from this project, and the full support of the local government of Butuan, along with the partner stakeholders, is highly sought for this proposed project to be realized," Sec. Santos said.

The said project will offer livelihood programs to the locals to utilize and produce Nipa-based products such as juice, tuba, sugar, vinegar, wine, shingles, and handicrafts. They can also make garments and souvenirs, produce boats and fish, do backyard farming, and local tour guides. 

Moreover, the local tourism industry and green jobs development will include kayaking, river cruising, floating restaurants, bird watching, fishing, and educational tours. 

The proposed Masao River Eco-Cultural Tourism Development Project. Photo: PIA Caraga

Evangeline Peña-Dominise of Butuan City Tourism Office shared that the development of waterways is already part of the master plan. Hence, she further recommended to submit the proposed project to the City Planning Office and to the mayor for them to have a better appreciation of the said significant project," she said.

As a visionary who looks into its long-term sustainability, Asec. Abner Caga, deputy director-general for Unified Messaging in Mindanao of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), cited the importance of identifying the extent of commitment among the involved partner agencies. He likewise suggested to lobby the proposed Masao River Eco-Cultural Tourism Development Project to the Caraga Regional Development Council (RDC), as he has high trust on the project in boosting the tourism industry and a tangible opportunity for livelihood of the place.

The proponents kick-off the journey to revive the Masao River. Photo: Brigada Butuan

The river cruise

The scope and parameters of Masao River is vast, traversing from Barangay Libertad to other barangays in Bit-os, San Vicente, Kinamlutan, Babag, Doongan, Maon, Villa Kananga, Ambago, Pinamaculan, Bonbon, Dumalagan Bancasi, all in Butuan City, and enters the coastal bodies of brackish waters in Buenavista and Barangay Culit in Nasipit, both in Agusan del Norte and finally reaching its farthest at Barangay Poblacion, Magsaysay in Misamis Oriental.

Regional Director Venus Garcia of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Caraga envisions a longer, better and more exciting river cruise and other recreational and exploration activities which are crucial for tourism development and livelihood opportunities.

"PIA Caraga will definitely provide the communication needs more specifically on this proposed project. As the lead agency of the Communications and Advocacy Committee under the Caraga Regional Development Council, we will closely coordinate with NEDA and other member agencies, and discuss with them how we could further extend assistance on the implementation of the said project," Dir. Garcia said.

She underscored that PIA Caraga has been very active in its support to all other committees in the region that create meaningful projects that will benefit the vulnerable sectors in the region.

Floating villas explore the Masao River. Photos: Suroy Butuan and Caraga and Karl Brando Mero

Fr. Joesilo Amalla of the Diocese of Butuan gave a challenging statement, "We do not just support this, but we are asking for your support because on our part in the historical association, we need the assistance of the government line agencies to make this a reality and be able to help the locals and the fisherfolk in the area of Masao River." 

With passionate leaders, individuals and groups supporting the Masao River Eco-Cultural Tourism Development Project, it is never impossible to bring back the old good days of the Masao River. (RLE-PIA-Caraga)

Just like its sunset, Masao River offers panoramic opportunities. Photo: Jojie Alcantara

About the Author

Kate Shiene Austria

Information Officer III

Information Officer III under the Creative and Production Services Division of the Philippine Information Agency. 

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