|Promoting and Institutionalizing Ecotourism|
ECOTOURISM IN THE PHILIPPINES
The Philippines is regarded as one of the top 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world in view of its high percentage of endemic plants and animals which are threatened by extinction. Recognizing the diverse natural and cultural resources of the country. Executive Order No. 111 was issued on 17 June 1999 to establish the guidelines for ecotourism development in the Philippines. Pursuant to EO111 the National Ecotourism Strategy (NES) was formulated to provide an integrated management plan for the development of ecotourism in the country. Its preparation was undertaken through a series of regional stakeholders consultation and national planning workshops that emphasized a bottom-up and top-down approach for harnessing ideas, information and experiences in developing the country's ecotourism sites.
The bottom-up process aims to create mechanisms for nurturing ecotourism development through community initiatives, local enterpreneurship and private sector participation.
The top-down process seeks to focus the development, management and marketing of key ecotourism sites and set standards for enhancing the quality and monitor ecotourism operations.
The NES responds to real needs and circumstances in the country. It rests on the following principles of ecotourism:
The NES is founded on the vision to advocate, foster, coordinate, monitor and mobilize support for ecotourism. Specifically, it aims to: 1) Promote and mobilize support for ecotourism from all sectors - government, businesses and general populace; 2) Develop a culture of sustainable tourism among the local people; 3) Institutionalize community participation in planning, development, implementation and monitoring of projects; 4) Promote environmental education and ethics; 5) Develop capability of LGUs and local entrepreneurs; 6) Facilitate domestic and foreign investments to fill in facilities requirements; 7) Develop globally competitive ecotourism products for quality visitor experience; 8) Ensure benefits redound to local community.
A program to integrate and coordinate ecotourism development is also provided for in the NES:
The NES has identified 32 key ecotourism sites in the Philippines categorized as banner, emerging and potential sites. Twelve (12) of these sites were declared as banner sites, while others are either emerging or potential. Banner sites are relatively ready sites, chosen to provide the image to position the Philippines as a premier and potential sites are areas which can be developed in the medium and long-term, respectively.
In the short term, ecotourism products are developed. promoted and marketed in cooperation and close collaboration with the local government units, the local communities, the indigenous people, the private and business sectors and the national government. To ensure visitor satisfaction, tour operators and tour guides/ interpreters will undergo enhancement training on tour guiding. nature interpretation as well as basic first aid and rescue courses. To disseminate and share information, manuals and newsletters are to be produced and an ecotourism communication network will be established. To ensure success in running the business, entrepreneurial development training will be conducted. Assistance is also extended to improve the basic amenities and facilities in the area. Ecotourism standards to check appropriateness of tours, accommodation and services are to be formulated for future regulation, accreditation and certification program among others. To kick-start the funding of ecotourism projects in key ecotourism sites, a feasibility study is to be conducted to determine the merits of establishing an ecotourism fund.
In the medium term, the action plan includes the promotion of small and medium scale business, continuing enhancement of tour guiding skills and resource management staff; implementation of training programs; monitoring of visitor impacts advocate the institutionalization of ethics among visitors, encourage participation of organizations working for ecotourism in the Philippines, encourage projects for funding support.
In the long-term, it is envisaged to promote ecotourism investment in the site, promote networking of sites and communication between and among stakeholders; develop action plans for emerging and potential key sites; prepare institutional guidelines and modules for planning and development; integrate ecotourism in educational curriculum at all levels; create a cadre of multi-disciplinary and experienced local and national consultants and encourage the participation of individuals and organizations working on ecotourism outside of the Philippines.