CLARK FREEPORT -- Ayala president Fernando Zobel de Ayala has underscored the need to protect and preserve local communities and their environment for sustainable tourism.
Zobel said he believes that tourism is one key sector that could unlock unprecedented benefits for the Philippines.
Sustainable tourism could further induce economic growth and create meaningful impact for the country’s environment and local communities, Zobel said in a press statement sent to SunStar Pampanga.
“I would like to believe that both the country and our many domestic and foreign tourists now have a renewed sense of responsibility for our fragile ecosystem. Beyond preserving our destinations for their aesthetic and environmental appeal, sustainable tourism holds tremendous potential to responsibly unlock economic value,” Zobel said.
In 2018 alone, the Philippines welcomed an all-time high of 7.1 million international visitors. Tourism also contributed to P2.2 trillion to the economy, equivalent to 12.7 percent of GDP.
The sector also supported 5.4 million jobs or 13 percent of the country’s total employment. With more meaningful investments, the Philippines could reach the 10 million visitor milestone within the next few years.
Zobel added that any initiative in developing an area should always integrate and address the interests of the environment and the local communities.
At Ayala, estate development plans reflect these considerations. For example, Ayala Land’s (ALI) Carbon Forest Program is designed to absorb and store carbon in six project sites covering some 587 hectares of land.
The program protects and restores early secondary growth forests in swamplands, wetlands, and inland locations across the country.
Lio Tourism Estate in El Nido has 48 hectares of these forests. On the sociocultural and economic aspects, ALI continues to partner with the El Nido community by sourcing from them local resources for its operational needs.
Some 70 percent of ALI’s El Nido employees also come from the community.
An internship program trains them to be the next generation of sustainable tourism leaders.
Advocates believe that ecotourism simultaneously encourages community residents to become active stewards of the local coastal ecosystems,” said Dr. Ramon Alampay, Ph.D, associate professor at the UP Asian Institute of Tourism.
Alampay said communities play as agents in the care and keeping of the mangroves in coastal towns where these are typically overlooked as an ecotourism centerpiece.
Mangroves act as a natural coastal defense, preventing soil erosion and flooding.
They are effective carbon sinks, capable of removing up to four times more carbon in the atmosphere, compared to tropical forests. They maintain water quality, enhance breeding ground for wildlife, and protect biodiversity.
He emphasized the need for ecosystem-based approaches toward coastal conservation and sustainable tourism development.