The Philippine government is putting ecotourism at the forefront of its development priorities to help coastal communities affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said.
The DENR is now looking at ecotourism as sustainable livelihood to divert natives from the extraction of coastal and marine resources.
Speaking at the 5th World Ecotourism Conference (WEC) in Cebu City, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the devastation brought by Yolanda compels the government to step up its campaign for sustainable travel practices that promote conservation of protected natural areas while also benefiting local economies.
The WEC is organized by Discoverymice, an affiliate of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, to bring together global eco–tourism players to help host countries bring their eco–tourism policies and initiatives to global attention.
This year’s conference, which runs from February 20 to 22, is locally organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Tourism.
To recall, the government has allotted $22 million or P1 billion for mangrove and beach forests development in disaster-risk areas in the country covering not only areas hit by Yolanda, but also those affected by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Bohol and Cebu and other calamities.
Paje underscored the need to provide alternative livelihood to coastal communities to curb the country’s high dependence on its coastal and marine resources, characterized by destructive and unsustainable resource extraction practices, which led to devastation in ecosystems as in the case of Yolanda.
“It was clear that due to lack of natural barriers in the coastlines, the communities were highly devastated by storm surges sending five-meter high, tsunami-like wave,” he pointed out.
“To ensure the sustainability of ecotourism initiatives in the country, the government has adopted another way of expanding and diversifying its approach in coastal and marine resources management. What we have now is a paradigm shift from the upland area as the focus of conservation activities to a ridge-to-reef approach,” Paje said.