The future of Philippine tourism is green


Today is Sabado de Gloria and it marks the end of our period of reflection. I remember that during my childhood, my sisters and I would assemble in the yard with the other kids in the neighborhood and would jump as high as we can. The belief was that those who are able to jump high enough would grow much taller.

A colleague suggests that we also mark this Lenten week as one of “healing” and a reminder of the sacrifice of our Lord. It has been a meaningful week for me as last Tuesday, the husband of a dear niece was finally discharged from the hospital after 38 days of almost daily medical procedures to save his life.

This past week, we also held an event on ecotourism that demonstrated our common desire to “heal” our environment.

Our Department of Tourism (DOT) sees sustainable tourism as a priority and has taken several steps towards the completion of the DOT National Tourism Development Plan based on Filipino culture, heritage and identity.

Ecotourism’s goal is sustainability – conserving the fragile environment and responding to the needs of the local people while at the same time bringing in foreign income.

Today, the country has 11 World Heritage areas, with more envisioned in the next few years, and with 80 sites which had shown extensive level of planning on tourism.

Last week, from March 29-April 2, representatives of 24 nations from Asia and the Pacific, participated in the green travel mart. Organized by the International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST) it was presented by the Asian Ecotourism Network (AEN) at the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction in Silang, Cavite.

According to ISST President Mina Gabor, former secretary of Tourism, the expo was organized to enable global experts to share their best practices on ecotourism as well as to provide networking avenues for ecotourism authorities and advocates. Mina is a dynamo and even up to this time, in her late 80s, she continues to amaze us with her leadership not only in saving the environment but also in furthering other causes. Such as peace and transformative reforms that the late Supreme Court Justice Cecilia Muñoz Palma had advocated in her lifetime. She is chairperson of the foundation JCMPF, named after our late justice where I also serve as vice-chair.

The travel mart and expo organized by Mina, brought together delegates and exhibitors worldwide who were given the opportunity to showcase products and services with strong ecotourism component, green technology and practices. Its Ecotourism Interactive Forum had six themes designed to offer practical insights and ways to help improve sustainability, knowledge and practices.

The event came a few months after the 20th anniversary of the International Year of Ecotourism. Another feature of the fair was the presentation of awards under these categories – Waste Management, Environmental Leadership, Innovative Ecotourism, and Community Champion. The Philippines “Ten Knots Development Corporation which operates the Palawan resort, El Nido and the Lio Tourism Estate were finalists in three of these categories namely Waste Management, Environment Leadership, Innovative Ecotourism, and Community Champion.

Antique province likewise provides hopes in boosting local revenues as well as in responding to the necessity for interventions that would heal the damage done to the environment. While still a congresswoman of Antique, Senator Loren Legarda, authored bills to restore the rich marine and terrestrial biodiversity in the province due to the rising influx of tourists as well as illegal fishing. The province is home to the critically endangered hornbill, giant “horse flower” and rare bowl corals. Legarda also proposed the crafting of a development framework that would balance conservation and livelihood concerns.

A blessed Easter to everyone!