CLARK FREEPORT – The town of Guagua in the heart of Pampanga’s second district is now planning to pursue eco-tourism on top of its 10-point agenda to lure in investors as well as local and foreign tourists.
This was bared by Guagua municipal administrator Isias Panganiban, Jr. and former three-term councilor Roy Andrew Sunglao during the “Balitaan” media forum organized by the Capampangan in Media, Inc. in cooperation with the Clark Development Corp. at the Bale Balita here last Friday.
Panganiban, who was also the municipal administrator of former mayors Manuel Santiago, Pat Magcalas and Ric Rivera, served as secretary of the sangguniang bayan before becoming the administrator of incumbent Mayor Dante Torres.
Geographically located in the heart of the second district, Guagua lies at the crossroads of the district’s six municipalities making it an area of traffic congestion.
But Panganiban said they are putting this to their advantage by anchoring this to its comprehensive land use plan where it is now a convergence of markets.
He said the town hall, located in the central business district, will be transferred to Barangay San Antonio near the Ologapo-Gapan (OG) Road to free the downtown area of traffic and make it accessible to motorists from the highway.
As a matter of priority, Panganiban said Guagua “is now on the revival of our river, something to look forward to.”
He said a Dutch firm, Double Rainbow Company, would like to restore, through excavation and dredging, the Pampanga River just like the Loboc River in Bohol. Tourists and investors will come in, he pointed out.
“The government will not spend anything because the company will do the dredging and get the sediments,” he said. In the process, the Guagua River will be desilted and restored, he added.
“If we look back at its early history, they call Guagua, Wawa, which came from the word mouth of the river,” he said.
Panganiban said Sasmuan town was part of Guagua before and Betis was a separate town until 1902 when Sasmuan separated and Betis was incorporated into Guagua.
He said Mayor Santiago did pilot channeling in the river after it was choked by lahar after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo because they have no capacity to restore the original depth so they dredge only eight meters.
“So, now the small islets in the middle of the Guagua river were the products of lahar flows,” he explained.
But he said the company is still in the process of proposing and baring its plans to the government to get its approval.
If all goes well, Panganiban said, “we will restore the lost glory of Guagua prior to Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption.”
The Guagua River used to be 40 meters deep where even ships came in to dock that was why it was known as “Dalan Bapor.”
Now, it’s only two meters deep because of the lahar and other siltation, he lamented.
The river’s width used to be 122 meters but now it’s only about 40 meters wide, he said.
The plan to desilt it would be under the public-private partnership (PPP), he added.
Panganiban said the municipalities of Lubao, Sasmuan, and Guagua are okay with the project.
He said the Dutch company had already made a presentation with the Department of Public Works (DPWH) and they were able to get the approval of the provincial government.
He said the DPWH is determining the parameters and set-backs for the infrastructure that will be affected.
He added that they are now in the process of trying to fine tune the contract before starting.
But Sunglao said provincial board member Tonton Torres told him during the presentation at the Capitol that other companies were also interested on same project.
However, with the project’s completion, Sunglao said, a floating restaurant, an aqua sanctuary, and mangroves will be among its many components other than dredging. The drawbridge in Sasmuan is also being eyed.
He said `the coastal barangays of Bangkal Pugad in Lubao, Bangkal Sinubli in Sasmuan will be mostly benefited from the project.
“This could be our march to cityhood but only preparatory,” he added.