SUBIC FREEPORT Zone: The importance of protecting the environment to sustain the local as well as the global tourism industry was the focus of a four-day ecotourism festival that ended here recently.
International delegates from 10 countries including the United States, Costa Rica, Jordan, Japan, Thailand and Australia spoke on a variety of topics that included general tourism, architecture and ecotourism site development.
With the theme “Ecotourism Driving Sustainability: Asean and Beyond,” the event brought together much sought after speakers from the Global Ecotourism Network (GEN) and other experts from the Asia Ecotourism Network (AEN) and other top tourism icons and specialists from all over the world.
Senator Cynthia Villar and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Administrator Wilma Eisma who graced the occasion held at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center told festival participants that tourism cannot be sustained without caring for the environment, and that sustainable development needs commitment from the people.
“At the heart of sustainable tourism is protection of the environment,” Villar said, who has been a long-time advocate of environmental protection.
“Tourism without environmental preservation and protection is not sustainable,” she added, citing her project – the Las Piñas-Zapote River Rehabilitation Program – which gave birth to several livelihood projects where water lilies, plastics and other used materials that clogged rivers were turned into handicrafts and even furniture.
“Today, we are focusing our efforts on establishing the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and the Las Piñas Wetland Park as eco-tourism destinations,” Villar said.
Eisma recalled how the more than 8,000 volunteers of the Subic Bay Freeport cleaned up and safeguarded the former Subic Naval Base after the US Navy left in 1992.
Calling these volunteers as heroes of local ecotourism, she said the volunteers showed their caring and initiative by working without pay, thus helping in transforming Subic into what it is today.
“We can enjoy the place, but please be responsible. Ecotourism is all about sustainability and responsibility is sustainability,” Eisma added.
The 2017 Subic Ecotourism Festival was organized by the Subic International School for Sustainable Tourism headed by Mina Gabor, in celebration of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.