What is our hope for the Filipino traveler as we approach the beginning of a new decade? From 2010 to present, we have seen a steady increase in local tourism. Our 7,641 islands offer unrivaled biodiversity through its countless coves and beaches, sprawling mountain ranges, and dense rainforest that are home to species unique only to our side of the tropics. It is easy to see why it is more fun in the Philippines, but in the wake of rapid development, an important question emerges: can our country sustain it? Will paradise still be fun for future tourists? The Department of Tourism believes that it is no longer enough to keep boosting tourism without minding the impact it makes on future generations. Sustainability is easier said than done and its essence is muddled and lost when used to promote agendas other than preservation. This chapter serves to remind the Filipino traveler the ultimate goal of sustainable tourism – to visit a place and leave it better thank when you first came. Sustainable tourism is just starting to take root in the Philippines and its continued growth is in the hands not only of the travelers, but also of the investors and stakeholders of a destination. In this decade, we have witnessed a shift away from token “greenwashing” practices to real and implementable programs that are ethical and environmentally responsible. Our new tourism decade must be one of mindfulness not only for the present, but also for the future. Tourism that creates positive impact on the communities it touches.
The Boracay that children hear of today is not the same Boracay that their parents knew. It’s one of the most beautiful islands in the world and yet also one of the dirtiest. Its turquoise waters glisten under the sun, yet some areas of the beach are no longer good for swimming. Drains go straight out to sea, spiking up coliform levels in the water, and compromising the health of both residents and guests. Boracay is a cesspool,” declares the Philippine President Duterte himself.
For the first time in our national history, an executive order was issued to close an entire island. To preserve Boracay, it had to be shut down for six months. Without tourists, millions of dollars in income were lost, but the island began to heal itself.
While the closure of Boracay was a surgical procedure compared to previous administrations’ band-aid solutions, some privately owned corporations like Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI) believed that prevention is still the best cure.
The Lio Tourism Estate by the Ten Knots Development Corporation, an ALI subsidiary, is the first eco-master planned development in El Nido. The entire project abides by the principle of sustainability: developing land with the least impact on the environment while uplifting the local community. In March 2019, Lio received a “Sustainable Destinations Top 100” award from ITB Berlin, the world’s largest tourism trade fair.
The 325-hectare complex was divided into two main areas: 146 hectares were retained as natural resources, with open spaces spanning forestland, mangroves, wetlands, and other bodies of water; then only 55% of the other 179 hectares were allocated for development.
Found in the rainforests of Baras, Rizal with its peaky karst trails and tree-lined rock gardens, the Masungi Georeserve was named a Model for Balanced Man-Nature Interactions by the World Conservation Congress in 2016. Over the past 15 years, it has continued to gather international acclaim by reaping sustainability and tourism awards from the United Nations World Tourism Organization and the World Travel and Tourism Council. Their mission was to restore and protect forestland that has fallen prey to illegal logging and quarrying operations in the 90s.
The Blue Star Construction and Development Corporation led and funded the conversion and conservation of the Masungi Georeserve. This involved the rehabilitation of over 2,700 hectares of vulnerable land, the planting of more than 40,000 endemic trees to revive a rainforest, and the protection of 60 million year old limestone formations. More than 100 locals were hired to take part in the process and over 400 species of plant and animal wildlife were safeguarded under the georeserve’s efforts. Each day, this project’s vision of being the country’s top eco-reserve destination is coming closer to reality.