Wednesday, January 27, 2016

ASEAN tourism energized by the Green Core

As part of the concerted efforts of the ten ASEAN-member countries--Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR), Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam--to unify as a single tourist destination, they have considered the standardization of tourism services. This is in view of establishing the ASEAN as one integrated economic community. At the heart of these standards is the principle of responsibility for environmental integrity.
This ASEAN logo is used for both the green hotel and the homestay awards. The flower resembling lotus means inducing luxurious enjoyment, peace and beauty; the petals enfolding the ASEAN logo signify resilience of member-countries; and the different shades of green symbolize protection of environment, fertility, growth, increase of production in tourism industry.   

The ASEAN Green Hotel Award
The ASEAN Green Hotel Award is a ceremony by the ASEAN-member states in recognition to hotel industry players who qualified for their compliance to the ASEAN Green Hotel Standard, which is succinctly defined as an ASEAN standard respectful of sustainable resources consumption. It establishes a professional green hotel operation such as environmental plan, green product, human resource and environmental management, which will enable environment and communities to benefit from a collective approach to operational professionalism.  Each winner is awarded with a plaque and a certificate of ASEAN Green Hotel Award valid for three years.
There are 11 criteria for this award, namely: (1) environmental policy and actions for hotel operation, (2) use of "green" products, (3) collaboration with the community and local organizations, (4) human resource development, (5) solid waste management, (6) energy efficiency, (7) water efficiency, (8) air quality management (indoor and outdoor), (9) noise pollution control, (10) waste water treatment and management, and (11) toxic and chemical substance disposal management.
Now on its 5th year, the ceremony was held in the Philippines, during its successful hosting of the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2016 held in 18-22 January 2016. 

In each member-country, the national tourism organization (NTO) appoints a national body to assess candidate-hotels, which are then nominated by the respective member-state to the ASEAN. For the Philippines, 10 hotels were awarded, namely: Amarela Resort, Amorita Resort, Baguio Country Club, Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort, Crimson Resort and Spa Mactan, Daluyon Beach and Mountain Resort, Fundacion Pacita Batanes Nature Lodge, Pearl Farm, The Bellevue Resort, The Manor at Camp John Hay.
DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Jr. (at the centermost, standing) is flanked by the hotel-awardees, namely: Amarela Resort, Amorita Resort, Baguio Country Club, Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort, Crimson Resort and Spa Mactan, Daluyon Beach and Mountain Resort, Fundacion Pacita Batanes Nature Lodge, Pearl Farm, The Bellevue Resort, The Manor at Camp John Hay.

The ASEAN Homestay Award

All over the ASEAN region, homestay program is a form of alternative tourism in which tourists are given the opportunity to experience the way of life with local community. The experiential nature of this form of tourism is becoming increasingly popular with foreign tourists.
Establishing the ASEAN Homestay Standard provides an opportunity to standardize a base-level understanding of what a homestay is and to establish a minimum standard across all ASEAN-member states. The standard facilitates a coordinated approach encouraging partnership with the relevant stakeholders and creating a positive environment while revitalizing the rural economy effectively reducing poverty incidence in the countryside. It aims to create higher quality homestays to appeal to discerning tourists.
The standard focuses on the host, accommodation, activities, authenticity, management, location, safety and security, marketing and sustainability principles.
The awardees will benefit from marketing programs being implemented by related government agencies and the ASEAN organization most especially from the branding  of ASEAN Standard Homestay, which is internationally recognized, as well as free training programs.

For the Philippines, the five ASEAN Homestay Awardees are Agan's Homestay, Ates Homestay, Estelita Homestay, Xylla's Estelita Homestay, and Daval Homestay, all from Siquijor Island.
Sandwiching the tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Jr. (4rth from left, standing) are the five ASEAN Homestay Awardees, namely:  Agan's Homestay, Ates Homestay, Estelita Homestay, Xylla's Estelita Homestay, and Daval Estelita Homestay.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Global Water Crisis: How Much Water Do We Really Use Everyday? ⎢Take...

Sustainable tourism requires responsible use of water on a daily basis, 24/7. Start becoming a responsible consumer of this natural resource that many parts of the world doesn't have that much. Reuse water for other suitable applications. Example, use a basin to collect water while washing your hands then used it to clean toilet bowl.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

ECOTOURISM: The Philippine's Under-Explored Pearl of Great Price

Located at the northeastern tip of Luzon, the Peñablanca Protected Landscape [3] is known for its countless caves and lush, fertile land. It is a verdant junction to some of the region’s greatest landscapes—the Cordillera and Sierra Madre mountains lie on its western and eastern borders, providing the perfect setting for some truly intense eco-adventures. Try your limbs at spelunking in some of the best-preserved caves this side of the province.

Get your feet wet, literally, in white-water kayaking expedition. Should you wish to keep your feet dry, there is also a host of less-hectic activities for the eco-tourist.

The Pinacanauan River is lined with the mountain edge of the Peñablanca Protected Landscape in Cagayan Valley, which houses the seven-chamber Callao caves.
One of the seven chambers of Callao cave.
The Gran Central Cordillera mountains [4] is a vast, 23,000 sq. km. portion of mountainous terrain in Northern Luzon mystified by cool foggy weather and made majestic by rice terraces. It is essentially a landlocked region with its lush valleys, and pine-covered summits making it one of the Philippines’ most popular destinations for mountaineering and other related activities. The Cordilleras are home to numerous ethnic communities—around eleven of them are in the highlands, all of them possessing their own unique cultures.

Everything that excites a mountaineer is in there—a vast terrain reaching out to the horizon, dotted with hills, mountains, streams, and rocks of all sizes from pebbles to boulders even bigger than the size of cars. Then there’s the ubiquitous sand spewed from the mouth of Mt. Pinatubo decades ago, getting into everything and everywhere else. Finally, there’s the journey itself—sixty minutes of bouncing, crushing “4x4” action, followed by three hours of trekking.

Rugged yet stunningly glorious on top, Mt. Pinatubo [6] is not for the faint of heart—you have to pay with your profuse sweat and bold guts. Devastating Central Luzon in 1991, it ejected tons of ashes and vomited raging rivers of lahar and ferocious lava but gave birth as well to tons of livelihood activities in addition to its being an ecotourism site.

The aerial view of the crater of Mt. Pinatubo
The Hundred Islands, Pangasinan
 The Hundred Islands National Park [5] is Pangasinan’s provincial pride, consisting of a small archipelago off the coast of Alaminos. Often referred to as a tiny version of the Philippines, it has more than 200 green vegetation-topped, white sand-ringed islets set amidst a brilliant backdrop of deep green-blue waters.

Climb the world’s smallest volcano or simply view it from the cool foggy slopes of nearby Tagaytay City.

Aside from being fairly challenging and rugged climb, Taal Volcano [9] is a major lesson in earth science. Situated among red oxidized soil and smoking vapour vents in the main crater, which houses a small lake of sulfur and water. Up there, the wind is cool, atmosphere calm and the view breathtaking. Such a lovely sight, one might say, belies this land’s awesome and yet violent nature.

“The Whale Shark Capital of the World” is Donsol [12], one of the 14 municipalities of Sorsogon, because of whale sharks or butanding, the largest living fish species, taking a haven in the waters of this town during summer months. It is the biggest marine attraction in the Philippines that turned Donsol into a world-class tourist destination. Whale shark interaction despite the assurance of the presence of a BOI, butanding interaction officer, and the knowledge of its being amiable will give you a formidable emotional combination of fear and thrill—an unforgettable experience you won’t forget.
Taal from the point of view of Tagaytay.
The crater lake of Taal Volcano

Butanding interaction in Donsol.
To continue...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Where Are We Going After the 5th World Ecotourism Conference?

With the theme “Marine and Coastal Ecotourism: Oceans of Uncertainties, Waves of Opportunities,” the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Malaysia-based DiscoveryMICE, an affiliate of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), organized the 5th World Ecotourism Conference held on February 20-22, 2014, in Cebu's RadissonBlu Hotel.

Among the topics discussed were the impacts of ecotourism in both the natural and the cultural environments,  the socio-economic aspects of the industry such as development of destinations, management of marine ecotourism spots, marketing, and the elimination of poverty through sustainability.

During the conference, the DOT and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) bared and launched the nine-year National Ecotourism Strategy (NES) and Action Plan, 2013-2022. The  DOT is represented by no less than its Secretary, Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr. and the DENR, also its Secretary, Ramon J. P. Paje, co-sharing the chairmanship of the National Ecotourism Development Council.

During the launching ceremony, Secretary Jimenez  said that the Philippines is the perfect host to this year's conference since part of the country's National Tourism Development Plan, he says, "is to develop competitive and sustainable products and destinations which will provide economic opportunities and protect the environment." 

"It is important for the Philippines to take the lead in involving local communities and government units in (marine) conservation work, especially that the livelihood of many Filipinos are linked to the seas," he added.

Meanwhile, Secretary Paje said that due to the recent disasters devastating some parts of the country the government is compelled to step up its campaign for sustainable tourism practices that promote conservation of protected natural areas at the same time also benefiting the local economies.

The conference was attended by about 400 people in the government, the civil society, the business sector, and the academe from all over the world to discuss, share and learn sustainable development strategies they adopted in their own fields of interest and business and development activities.

Envisioning the Philippines as a globally competitive ecotourism destination with its wealth of natural beauty and cultural richness, conscious of the need to conserve, enhance, sustain and develop these assets and ensure equitable sharing of benefits among its people, the NES is aimed at "environmentally and socially responsible development that safeguards the integrity and diversity of its natural resources, provides education and enjoyment to visitors and delivers larger and more widely distributed income and employment opportunities to the local communities and their constituents, especially the women, youth, indigenous peoples, and the vulnerable groups."

Achieving its purpose begins with awareness, appreciation, and conviction on the values of pursuing ecotourism as a strategy of sustainable tourism--both in its tangible and intangible benefits in relation to achieving inclusive growth for the country. What do we need to do--what else other than to launch an information, education, and communication (IEC) campaign starting with the concerned policy and decision makers--the DMUs--in the ecotourism sites? 

Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr. addresses the attendees with opening remarks.

Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje delivers his piece.

The representatives of various government agencies--international, national and local--and non-governmental organizations, involved in the organizing of the conference.

The book inscribing the NES & AP 2013-2022, a collaborative work between the DOT and the DENR in consultation with various stakeholders.

From left to right--DOT Asec. Rolando Cañizal, USec. Daniel G. Corpuz, DENR Sec. Ramon J.P. Paje, DOT Sec. Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr., DENR USec. Ernesto G. Adobo, Jr. and Director Theresa Mundita s. Lim of Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, DENR.

The conference participants

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

ECOTOURISM: The Philippine's Under-Explored Pearl of Great Price

In continuation (click to view the previous)...

In recognition of the country’s great potential to compete with the world’s established ecotourism sites, Executive Order No. 111 was issued calling for the formulation of the National Ecotourism Strategy (NES)1, in order to provide an integrated management plan for the development of ecotourism in the Philippines. The NES identified key sites for ecotourism development classified as banner, emerging or potential sites (Figure 1, in bold are the banner sites). Banner key sites are envisioned to serve as models for developing ecotourism. On the other hand, emerging key sites are those that are already in the initial phase of development while potential key sites are those that have not yet undergone any development and are not suitable for promotion. Brushing off the conceptual discussion of ecotourism, let us look into what the Pearl of the Orient Seas has to offer by exploring these under-explored key sites.

Ruins in Barangay Savidug, Sabtang, Batanes. Photo by R.A.Natanauan
The Batanes group of islands [1] (click here for a video)—a jagged, rocky home to the kind Ivatans—is the northernmost tip of Luzon lying some 180 kilometers from the mainland. Being isolated from the mainland is its most endearing quality. Batanes has its share of old Spanish churches and villages strewn with traditional stone houses well-adapted to its windy climate and an abundance of beautiful sceneries.

Basco Lighthouse and the Rolling Hills of Batanes.  Photo by R.A.Natanauan

Crisologo Street, Vigan.
Vigan [2] (click here for the video), being a remnant of all that was Spanish in the north, is a perfect epitome of an enduring cultural heritage earning the UNESCO’s World Heritage City title. Getting there is like a back-to-the-past experience, a culture-shock in 18th century Spanish Philippines. Vigan’s most popular attractions are, of course, its centuries-old houses, antiques, stone-paved streets, clippety-clop calesas and baroque churches, which have survived the ups and down of Philippine history. It is eight hours, 400 kilometers away from its walled version—the Intramuros.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

ECOTOURISM: The Philippine's Under-Explored Pearl of Great Price

Ecotourism is a significant tool of development that sustains both the natural and cultural resources of the country. In fact, the tourism industry, in general, thrives and prospers in so far as these resources are properly conserved and responsibly developed.  The Bohol Congress in 1999, following the Global Agenda 21 and its local counterpart the Philippine Agenda 21, adopted the concept of ecotourism as a form of sustainable tourism within a natural and cultural heritage area where community participation, protection and management of natural resources, culture, and indigenous knowledge and practices, environmental education and ethics, as well as economic benefits are fostered and pursued for the enrichment of host communities and the satisfaction of visitors. The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as a responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people. It is therefore more of an attitude, a way of life, than an industry striking a balance between the preservation of cultural heritage and environmental integrity and the pursuit of economic growth beneficial for both the host communities and the visitors.

A new species of Nembrotha nudibranch (also known as sea slug) that was discovered during the California Academy of Sciences' 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition. These brightly colored mollusks don't need shells for protection--instead they produce powerful toxins to keep potential predators at bay. Photo Credit: Terry Gosliner / California Academy of Sciences
The original inhabitants of Baguio are the Igorots, Kankana-eys and 
Ibalois.  These are Igorots in a street dancing competition during 
Panabenga Festival.

With 7,107 islands, the Philippines is the world’s second largest archipelago making it unsurprisingly rich in both natural and cultural resources. The Philippines, together with Malaysia, Indonesia, Borneo and Papua New Guinea, forms the Coral Triangle, the most diverse marine habitat of the tropics with more coral reef fish diversity than anywhere else in the world—37%  (2,228) of the world’s coral reef fish species (6,000), and 56% of the coral reef fishes in the Indo-Pacific region (4,050). It has 15 regionally endemic coral species, which is found nowhere else in the world, and shares 41 regional endemic species with Asia . The reefs of Sulu and Sulawesi seas are home to about 580 of the world’s 793 species of reef-building corals, compared to just 50 in the Caribbean and 300 in the Great Barrier Reef. There are over 19 identified species of marine mammals and 1,200 varieties of reef fish, including the plankton-feeding whale shark, the world’s largest fish.  The natural resource base for ecotourism encompasses seascapes, rivers, lakes, wetlands, volcanoes, caves, and cliffs harboring a rich variety of plants and animals. In the forest, fields and mountains about 500 species of birds have been recorded, of which 172 species are found only in these islands. The Philippines is considered both a mega-diversity country and one of the world’s highest priority hot spots for the conservation of nature.  The country is culturally as diverse as its natural resources  being home to over 180 indigenous ethnic groups, over half of which represent unique linguistic groups,  and countless non-indigenous groups who are of Hispanic, Chinese, American, Arab, Indian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean and other groups of foreign origin (Wikipedia, 2009).  These diversity brought about distinct, unique and enumerable blends of creative expressions—from fashion to culinary, from visual to performing arts, from architecture to artifacts, from rituals to festivals—within and beyond the boundaries of ethnic communities.  While it is true that the country is a melting pot of the West and the East, it has traditional villages all over the archipelago with all their unique cultures fully intact—these fusions and conservation form into a beautiful cultural mosaic that is distinctively Filipino.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tourism promotes brotherhood among peoples of diverse cultures

The Dragonair aircraft. The airline was voted as the
"Best Regional Airline – SE Asia" in the survey in 2008 and
“World’s Best Regional Airline” in 2010 and 2011.
Established in 1985, the Hong Kong-based airline Dragonair, a member of the Cathay Pacific Group, now operates in the Philippines linking the country through Clark and Hong Kong obviously setting aside the tragic Luneta hostage incident in 2010 as a closed issue. 

This operation was launched in an inaugural ceremony and send-off of the service’s first passengers at the Clark International Airport, Clark, Pampanga, last May this year.

“The introduction of the Clark service is a significant and timely milestone for Dragonair in terms of airline development as it marks its further expansion in the Philippine market, which is a very important passenger segment in the Asia-Pacific region,” Mr Yam said.

He added, referring nothing to the tragedy,  that the new service would help boost tourism and business in the Philippines. “We hope to strengthen our ties with the Philippines and support its fast-growing economy and rapidly-expanding tourism market by providing travelers the opportunity to visit and explore other nearby top destinations and business districts in this country. Meanwhile, with the extensive global network of Cathay Pacific, travelers are also offered with more options in flying from the Philippines to Hong Kong or more than 160 worldwide destinations via Hong Kong hub.”

Indeed, tourism is an agent of understanding promoting brotherhood among peoples of diverse cultures. 

This blogger believes in the power of tourism
for the country's sustainable development.
"South China Sea or West Philippine Sea?
Let's  have it handled by the DFA.
Tourism is our way."