ILOILO CITY – Along with the Philippines’ efforts to promote tourism, the government and private sector will focus on promoting responsible travel to conserve the country’s natural resources and sustain industry growth.
To achieve this goal, the Department of Tourism launched on Tuesday a campaign to promote environmentally sustainable tourism projects amid continuing threats to the environment.
Tourism Undersecretary Salvador Sarabia Jr. said the development of the tourism industry should proceed along with the preservation of the country’s natural resources.
“The tourism industry of the Philippines is largely dependent on natural resources and, if these natural resources are destroyed, the tourism industry will also suffer,” said Sarabia in an interview yesterday at the sidelights of the first conference on The Environmental Security on Tourism (TEST).
The two-day pilot conference jointly organized by the DOT, National Defense College of the Philippines and Haribon Foundation seeks to come up with policy guidelines for officials, non-government organizations and stakeholders in the tourism industry to ensure environmental security in their programs of government.
The conference also aimed to turn threats to tourism into opportunities by promoting responsible travel to destinations while conserving the environment and developing the community in these destinations.
Sarabia said the experience of Boracay Island has shown the integral relationship of protecting the environment and developing tourism.
“We must ensure the preservation and rehabilitation of forests, beaches and water sources because when these will be damaged, tourism in these areas and the livelihood of communities will ultimately suffer,” he said.
Blas Troy Tabaranza Jr., Haribon operations director, said the country’s natural resources are being depleted at an alarming rate.
He cited the threats to endangered Philippine Eagle, which have been blamed on the loss of forests.
“It is not a problem of breeding the eagles. It’s the lack of forests, where the eaglets could be dispersed by their parents. The eagles have nowhere to go,” said Tabaranza during the open forum.
The pilot conference is being held in Western Visayas because of the region’s natural tourist destinations and its potential for resolving the accompanying environmental problems with an integrated approach like the development of eco-tourism projects and destinations.
Around 150 local executives, tourism and development officers and entrepreneurs attended the conference, which was on its first day on Tuesday.
Sarabia said local executives and non-government organizations play an important role in this campaign because they will ensure the legislation of ordinances and implement laws and programs in their areas.
The conference participants identified environmental concerns and tourism sector problems and came up with recommendations.
Sarabia said the result of the conference would be used as a guide to similar conferences that will be held in other regions.