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."