FOLLOWING the international recognitions it reaped in the past two years, the Bojo Aloguinsan Ecotourism Association (BAETAS) is more motivated to inspire more local government units (LGUs) across the country to champion ecotourism.

Cebu Provincial Tourism Officer Joselito “Boboi” Costas said that while the awards served as testaments to the hard work and dedication that the LGU and community have put into making Aloguisan’s tourism asset sustainable, it also served as a challenge for Baetas in encouraging more LGUs to pursue sustainable ecotourism programs.

“The challenge for the group now is how to inspire other communities to follow our model,” said Costas.

“Our greatest accomplishment is that we are able to radiate to the LGUs from Luzon to Mindanao that sustainable tourism can be done. Bojo River is now a familiar benchmark destination for LGUs on ecotourism development,” he added.

Formed last June 14, 2009, BAETAS became the official caretaker of Aloguinsan’s 1.4-kilometer Bojo River in Barangay Bojo, which covers a riparian zone of 61 bird species and native flora.

With the help of the local government, trade and tourism government agencies and local eco-cultural organizations, the group developed Bojo River into an ecotourism asset and a livelihood resource.

BAETAS recently won the ASEAN Tourism Award in the Community-based Category. Rudney Carcuevas, the organization’s president, will receive the award in Singapore this Jan. 20.

Bojo, Aloguisan was also named as one of the Top 100 Sustainable Destinations for 2016 by Green Destinations. The list was unveiled last October 2016 during the World Tourism Day and Green Destinations Day.

The awards celebrate the efforts of tourism destinations’ responsible and sustainable tourism initiatives. Other Philippine destinations included in the list were Lake Sebu in South Cotabato and Lake Holon.

Last 2015, Bojo River Cruise also received an award for being the Best Community-based Tourism Initiative in Asia-Pacific in the 2015 UN Tourism INSPIRE Awards.

However, before these recognitions, Costas said that Baetas already started speaking and inspiring LGUs and communities to adopt sustainability measures in polishing their tourism jewels.

In Cebu, for instance, 13 towns have already been enrolled in the program and are in the different stages of development. The group has also trained some 130 “ecotourism warriors.”