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

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