Ecotourism potential high: DOT-A A +A
By Mia A. Aznar
Thursday, February 20, 2014
TOURISM Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. has revealed his strategy to promote ecotourism–make people fall in love with nature.
At the fifth World Ecotourism Conference yesterday, Jimenez said the potential market for ecotourism in the Philippines is high. Based on the National Ecotourism Strategy (NES), they expect 1.25 million visitors last year and 1.49 million in 2016.
“Ecotourism will continue to demonstrate robust growth in the next two decades, as more sophisticated types of travelers evolve,” he told conference participants.
Speaking to reporters at the sidelines of the conference, Jimenez said the NES was an “important meeting of the minds” between tourism and environment officials.
“Ecotourism is the modern word for responsible tourism,” he said, adding that the future of the industry lies in it, as more travelers prefer to experience nature.
He added that protecting nature will be easier to do if more people have experienced its beauty.
Jimenez said it is now easier to convince more people to protect the environment after super typhoon Yolanda, as more people have become environmentally aware of its impacts.
“Before, it was only the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) that used to worry about the environment. Now, it’s everybody,” he said. He added that it is at this stage that people are at their most vigilant and active and Jimenez believes the country is at at “sweet spot” as far as environmental protection is concerned.
DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said the devastation brought by Yolanda compels the government to step up its campaign for sustainable travel practices that promote conservation of protected natural areas while also benefiting local economies.
“In the wake of the killer typhoon, the government has forged measures that will be part of a comprehensive program on environmental protection. Sustainable resource-use strategies shall be promoted all throughout the country wherein one of the key activities is ecotourism development,” Paje said in his speech.
The government has allotted P1 billion for mangrove and beach forests development in disaster-risk areas in the country, covering areas hit by Yolanda and those affected by the magnitude 7.2 earthquake in Bohol and Cebu and other calamities.
“It was clear that due to lack of natural barriers in the coastlines, the communities were highly devastated by storm surges sending five-meter high, tsunami-like wave,” he said.
He said that they want to develop the natural defenses of the coasts, which are mangroves and beach forests. He said the Department of Science and Technology found that those areas with mangroves managed to dissipate the surge strength of the waves by 70 percent, which lessened the damage. He added that it is easy to grow mangroves.
Areas unsuitable for mangroves will be defended with infrastructure, to be taken care of by the Department of Public works and Highways.
The fund will be used to provide socioeconomic benefits to affected local communities and the program will in the long run mitigate the negative impacts of climate change.
Paje stressed the need to provide alternative livelihood to coastal communities to curb the country’s high dependence on its coastal and marine resources, characterized by destructive and unsustainable resource extraction practices, which led to devastation in ecosystems, as in the case of Yolanda.
Also yesterday, Paje turned over to Jimenez the chairmanship of the National Ecotourism Development Council, which is tasked to implement the NES action plan 2013 to 2022.
This includes developing and marketing diversified ecotourism products, creating a conducive environment for ecotourism investments, maximizing economic benefits for the host communities, promoting a culture of ecotourism, strengthening institutional capacity, establishing sustainable financing mechanisms and monitoring outcomes and impacts.
The World Ecotourism Conference is organized by DISCOVERYMICE, an affiliate of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, to bring together global ecotourism players to help support host countries bring their ecotourism policies and initiatives to global attention. Locally, it is organized by the Department of Tourism and DENR.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 21, 2014.