The tourism industry plays a significant role in the overall social, cultural, and economic development of a country. However, in promoting increased activity of the tourism industry, it is crucial that implementation of tourism projects and programs ensures the safeguard of the natives, culture, history, identity, and resources.

In many cases, developers are quick to move in and thoughtlessly convert certain areas to tourism hotspots with no consideration of its detrimental effects to the local communities as these are forgotten due to the prospect of financial revenue.

It is in this predicament that ecotourism burgeons, hoping to counter irresponsible and unsustainable tourism practices.

Ecotourism refers to a conscientious form of tourism that is focused on community participation, environmental sustainability, and socially and culturally responsible travel1)The International Ecotourism Society. (2015, January 2015). TIES Announces Ecotourism Principles Revision. Retrieved June 16, 2016, from https://www.ecotourism.org/news/ties-announces-ecotourism-principles-revision. Its purpose is to generate viable tourism opportunities and reduce the damages related activities bring to the environment. Simultaneously, it aims to improve the lives of the people in the concerned area.

The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), a nonprofit organization founded in 1990 that advocates for ecotourism globally, outlines three vital pillars in the definition of ecotourism: (1) conservation, (2) communities, (3) interpretation. Conservation includes “economic incentives for conserving and enhancing bio-cultural diversity and helps protect the natural and cultural heritage” (TIES, 2015)2)The International Ecotourism Society. (2015, January 8). What is Ecotourism?. Retrieved June 16, 2016, from https://www.ecotourism.org/what-is-ecotourism. Communities pertain to the empowerment of “local communities around the world to fight against poverty and to achieve sustainable development” (TIES, 2015)3)See The International Ecotourism Society (fn. 2). Interpretation emphasizes the enrichment of “personal experiences and environmental awareness” through promotion of “greater understanding and appreciation for nature, local society, and culture” (TIES, 2015)4)See The International Ecotourism Society (fn. 2).

Tourism Master Plan was prepared by the Department of Tourism (DOT) in collaboration with the World Tourism Organization and the United Nations Development Program. The next years saw serious and tangible effort to include more places where ecotourism-related programs were to be instituted. Some of these programs included Cave Management and Conservation Program, Coastal Environment Program, Wetland Conservation Program, Philippine Strategy for Biological Diversity Conservation, the Philippine Eagle Center in Davao, Calauit Game and Preserve Project in Palawan, and Philippine Raptors Conservation Project in Laguna5)Parducho, R. (2014). Ecotourism in the Philippines: A Review of Literature. Retrieved June 17, 2016, from Academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/12159443/Ecotourism_in_the_Philippines_A_Review_of_Literature. From 1994 to 1998, different government agencies such as the DOT, the National Museum, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) worked in close partnership in furthering ecotourism in the country6)See Parducho (fn. 5). Afterwards, in 1999, through the issuance of Executive Order 111, a national ecotourism strategy for the advancement of ecotourism in the country was formalized and the National Ecotourism Development Council (NEDC) was created to oversee related programs7)See Parducho (fn. 5).

(Shankar, 2013)8)Shankar S. (Photographer). (2013). The Philippine Eagle. Retrieved June 19, 2016 from https://flic.kr/p/eSCJuE. The Philippine Eagle Center is a breeding facility in Davao that is home to the critically endangered Philippine Eagle.

In 2001, Philippines situated itself in the international tourism atlas with the adoption of “WOW Philippines” tourism strategy9)See Parducho (fn. 5). This campaign was noticed globally, having won awards at the Internationale Tourismus Borse (ITB), the largest tourism convention in the world, and World Travel Market (WTM), a prominent international event for the travel industry. The concept was successful as local and foreign tourists flock to visit various places of the Philippines.

The tourism scheme “It’s more fun in the Philippines!” proved to be as effective as the “WOW Philippines” campaign due to the continuous arrival of many tourists from different countries. The new strategic slogan Visit Philippines Again 2016 is expected to carry the success of the previous campaigns and encourage more travels for local and foreign tourists.

(Abasalo, 2012)10)Abasalo, R. (Photographer). (2012). Department of Tourism building . Retrieved June 19, 2016 from https://flic.kr/p/dms31Q. The Department of Tourism is regularly devising promotion schemes to stimulate tourism in and to the Philippines.

Ecotourism leads to income generation and employment openings that will be enjoyed by the local community, infrastructure development for the locality, and increased political aid concerning nature conservation and preservation. The Philippine government crafted in 1997 the Philippine Agenda 21 that tasked stakeholders of development plans to see to the inclusion of typically marginalized and disadvantaged sectors such as women, elderly, people with disabilities, victims of disasters and calamities, and people working in the informal economy11)See Parducho (fn. 5).

Philippine tourism has progressed from five S which include sun, sand, seas, sports, and sex to five F namely food, farms, fishes, forests, and festivals12)See Parducho (fn. 5).

Ecotourism Destinations in the Philippines

Batanes13)Ecotourism Philippines. (2015). Fabulous Sites to Discover and Explore. Retrieved June 19, 2016, from Ecotourism Philippines: http://www.ecotourismphilippines.net/ecotourism-sites.html

Batanes is located in the northernmost part of the country and is the only province that is also designated as a protected area. It is the smallest province in the country, with only six localities that are spread out in its three largest islands Batan, Sabtang, and Itbayat. The richness of its natural and cultural resources, being home to the indigenous group of Ivatan and its picturesque landscapes and panoramic sceneries, makes Batanes a highly-valued destination that necessitates appropriate management for tourism to flourish. It being a group of islands makes it more susceptible to the negative changes and impacts that undisciplined tourism causes. Ecotourism enterprise development is being implemented in the province to safeguard the natural assets, to ensure economic incentives for the residents and to mend and preserve Ivatan houses.

(Ascaño, 2010)14)Ascaño, A. (Photographer). (2010). Batanes Retrieved June 19, 2016 from https://flic.kr/p/emoPrD. The serene landscapes of Batanes is one of its several attractive points.

Cambuhat River, Buenavista, Bohol15)See Department of Tourism. (n.d.). Ecotourism Sites by Region. Retrieved June 19, 2016, from Department of Tourism – The Philippines Ultimate Guide for Tourist: http://www.visitmyphilippines.com/index.php?title=EcotourismSitesbyRegion&func=all&pid=2519&tbl=1

The Cambuhat River can be found in the municipality of Buenavista in Bohol, an island province in the central region of the Philippines. The local government sought the help of the Coastal Resource Management Project (CRMP) in which a memorandum of agreement was signed for the purpose of integrated coastal management in the municipality. The fisher folk in Cambuhat were educated to better administer the river and coastal systems and were capacitated in enterprise development in which they were taught native craft making. The collaboration of the local government unit and the CRMP also designed the Cambuhat River and Village Tour which earned an Excellence Award in Ecotourism from the Conservation International, an American nonprofit environmental organization, in 2000. The Cambuhat River and Village Tour is offered throughout the year and includes guided visits to oyster culture farms and demonstration on craft making. Additionally, through local legislation, some portions of the river and the river mouth were also assigned as local reserve.

Palaui Island, Cagayan Valley16)See Ecotourism Philippines (fn 10)

Palaui Island is found 642 kilometers away from Manila and is at the northeastern most part of the Philippines. It is officially known as Palaui Island Protected Landscape and Seascape. The island has continuously ranked by numerous international media as one of the best beaches in the world. Survivor US had shot its Season 27 and Season 28 in the island which upgraded its reputation even more. Concerned island residents of Palaui organized the Palaui Environmental and Protectors’ Organization to actively attend to the provision of different services extended to the visitors. Blue Water Consultancy, a firm that delivers technical assistance to various government and non-government entities on conservation projects, environmental education and tourism master planning, trained and capacitated the residents by improving their skills in guideship services, trail management, camp site development, and community spa management.

(Semilla, 2014)17)Semilla, S. (Photographer). (2014). Palaui Island 2014 . Retrieved June 19, 2016 from https://flic.kr/p/o7if9D. Hailed as one of the best beaches in the world, Palaui Island is a must when visiting the Philippines.

Conclusion18)See Roxas, F. (2014). Can Ecotourism Boost the Economy in the Philippines?. Retrieved June 19, 2016, from Yale Insights: http://insights.som.yale.edu/insights/can-ecotourism-boost-economy-philippines

According to Fernando Roxas, the Executive Director of the Asian Institute of Management Dr. Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism, ecotourism in the Philippines still needs constant rethinking of development strategies to make it a central cohesive source of economic growth. He added that ecotourism offers a very practical tool as it would require the least infrastructure investment.

The Philippine economy is reliant on the service industry such as on the remittances of overseas Filipino workers and on the income generated by the business process outsourcing sector. To broaden wells of revenue, ecotourism is a potent tool that will allow economic incentive in the virginal and unassisted areas of the Philippines.

 

 

By Lea Salen Peralta, ASEAN Correspondent from Philippines

 

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References   [ + ]

1. The International Ecotourism Society. (2015, January 2015). TIES Announces Ecotourism Principles Revision. Retrieved June 16, 2016, from https://www.ecotourism.org/news/ties-announces-ecotourism-principles-revision
2. The International Ecotourism Society. (2015, January 8). What is Ecotourism?. Retrieved June 16, 2016, from https://www.ecotourism.org/what-is-ecotourism
3, 4. See The International Ecotourism Society (fn. 2)
5. Parducho, R. (2014). Ecotourism in the Philippines: A Review of Literature. Retrieved June 17, 2016, from Academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/12159443/Ecotourism_in_the_Philippines_A_Review_of_Literature
6, 7, 9, 11, 12. See Parducho (fn. 5)
8. Shankar S. (Photographer). (2013). The Philippine Eagle. Retrieved June 19, 2016 from https://flic.kr/p/eSCJuE
10. Abasalo, R. (Photographer). (2012). Department of Tourism building . Retrieved June 19, 2016 from https://flic.kr/p/dms31Q
13. Ecotourism Philippines. (2015). Fabulous Sites to Discover and Explore. Retrieved June 19, 2016, from Ecotourism Philippines: http://www.ecotourismphilippines.net/ecotourism-sites.html
14. Ascaño, A. (Photographer). (2010). Batanes Retrieved June 19, 2016 from https://flic.kr/p/emoPrD
15. See Department of Tourism. (n.d.). Ecotourism Sites by Region. Retrieved June 19, 2016, from Department of Tourism – The Philippines Ultimate Guide for Tourist: http://www.visitmyphilippines.com/index.php?title=EcotourismSitesbyRegion&func=all&pid=2519&tbl=1
16. See Ecotourism Philippines (fn 10)
17. Semilla, S. (Photographer). (2014). Palaui Island 2014 . Retrieved June 19, 2016 from https://flic.kr/p/o7if9D
18. See Roxas, F. (2014). Can Ecotourism Boost the Economy in the Philippines?. Retrieved June 19, 2016, from Yale Insights: http://insights.som.yale.edu/insights/can-ecotourism-boost-economy-philippines