Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Eco-Tourism: A delicate balancing act

Let's Start the Revolution of the Filipino Youth XVIII

Riding a bicycle requires a relatively easy balancing act. Flying an airplane requires a more complicated balancing act. Running a national organization requires a tough balancing act. And growing one's business without detriment to the environment is probably the toughest balancing act of them all. It requires greater attention to detail, a meticulous preparation and should be constantly reviewed for improvements.

Developing a country's potential to become a tourism hub requires this kind of balancing act. With the threat of global warming looming over us due to environmental degradation, pollution, increased CO2 emission, and the multiplication of waste materials - the need for a more responsible approach towards development is greatly needed. Our country has been called alot of names because its natural beauty and because of our rich natural resources. Our country has been often called the Pearl of the Orient Seas. And yet compared to Thailand's 12 million tourist arrivals per year, we have less than 2 million tourists that arrive yearly.

Much lies with the government's poor performance on infrastructure development and poor planning as well from the regional, provincial and city offices. I believe it is high time that we explore the concept of Eco-Tourism and Sustainable Development to improve our country's tourism potential. There is a flurry of real estate development happening in the country today but sad to say alot of these developments are concentrated in Luzon specifically Metro Manila. I believe it is an opportune time for the Department of Tourism and other local government units (LGUs) to increase their collaboration on developing possible tourist spots in the country. Expansion of more urban cities is an important step towards this direction. The government has to give incentives to entrepreneurs and organizations who are building the country's tourism facilities and centers.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) should be involved from the start so that the ecosystems in these localities to be developed and the biological diversity are preserved. It is also high time to take a national and more concrete solid waste management program. A garbage crisis is already in the offing in Metro Manila and other key cities in the country and yet the government doesn't seem pre-occupied with this scenario.

Eco-Tourism can provide the dollar revenues that we need to build more and better roads, for more and better rail transport systems, and more and better aiport & seaport facilities.

Part of this Eco-Tourism plan is a national law that strictly limits the development of the country's remaining forest cover, a fund for the protection of all wildlife and plants, a plan for sustainable logging programs and a medical tourism plan as well. Eco-Tourism requires the involvement of all parties including that of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like Greenpeace.

WOW Philippines campaign and the various programs of the Department of Tourism under Sec. Ace Durano today are great examples of what we can produce. But there is still much more that can be done. Each province, city or municipality should also extensively pour a part of their resources in developing their own tourism potential in conjunction with partner cities worldwide.

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