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16 breathtaking and marvelous ecotourism sites in the Philippines (Photos sources: Philippine Eagle Foundation, Pinoy Mountaineer, TravelAdvisor, Out of Town Blog, Esquire, Ilagan Sanctuary FB Page, Dahilayan Adventure Park FB page, Wikipedia, Tripzilla Philippines, Vivomigsgee, Flickr, Journey Era, Inside Filipino Eden, and Ads the Great)

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, a study on the ecotourism sites in the Philippines was conducted. Today, everyone is anxiously waiting for the COVID-19 pandemic to end. With this study, will ecotourism flourish once more?

Have you ever visited Costales Nature Farms in Laguna and Masungi Georeserve in Rizal? If you have, you are lucky to have been to the ecotourism sites that have best and exemplary ecotourism practices.  This was found in a recent study conducted by DOST-National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST-NRCP) where a rapid assessment of sustainable and best practices in ecotourism was done.

This study, led by Dr. Belinda F. Espiritu of the University of the Philippines Cebu, was done based on the website available resources, online brochures, blogs, and travel sites advisory such as TripAdvisor using an ecotourism assessment tool of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).  It determined the sustainability or unsustainability of selected tourism sites in the Philippines.

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A spectacular view of the Laguna de Bay on top of the web-style platform of Masungi Georeserve in Rizal. (Source: Wikipedia)

 

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The refreshing vibe of nature in Costales Nature Farms, Majayjay, Laguna. (Source: Ads the Great)

 

The ecotourism sites considered in the study were as follows:

In Luzon, the seven (7) ecotourism sites were: Mt. Pulag National Park (Cordillera Administrative Region); Manleluag Spring Protected Landscape, Pangasinan (Region 1); Ilagan Sanctuary, Isabela (Region 2); Pawikan Conservation Center, Morong, Bataan (Region 3); Costales Nature Farms, Majayjay, Laguna (Region 4A); Masungi Georeserve Park, Rizal (Region 4A); and Donsol Whale Shark Tourism, Bicol (Region 5).

In Visayas, the three (3) sites were: Taklong Island Marine Reserve, Guimaras (Region 6); Danao Adventure Park, Bohol (Region 7); Oslob Whale Shark Tourism, Cebu (Region 7). In Mindanao, six (6) ecotourism were studied, namely: and Dahilayan Adventure Park (Region 10); Philippine Eagle Center, Davao City (Region 11); Lake Sebu, South Cotabato (Region 12); Tinuy-an Falls, Bislig City, Surigao del Sur (Region 13); Enchanted River, Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur (Region 13); and Bucas Grande Island (Region 13).

Accordingly, ecotourism will be an effective tool for sustainable development if this is aligned with  the Philippine economic development and conservation strategies. John Roberts, Minor Hotels Group Director of sustainability and conservation, said that ecotourism already has a head start with outdoor-centric activities and offering itineraries in safer, low-risk environments (TTG Asia). With this, he projected that ecotourism will rebound faster than mass tourism.

The study found out that each of the 16 ecotourism sites manifested best practices as well as rooms for improvement and growth.

THE BEST PRACTICES

The most common best practices of these ecotourism sites include:  a management plan that is aligned with the eight principles of ecotourism, community participation, biodiversity conservation, economic and other sociocultural benefits, partnership between different agencies in the management of the ecotourism program, nature-friendly and value-added ecotourism services, and nature-friendly and visitor-friendly facilities and amenities.

The two exemplary ecotourism programs of Costales Nature Farms and Masungi Georeserve were recommended to be replicated in other ecotourism sites. The following are their best practices:

Costales Nature Farms

 

1) Protection and management of the environment through organic farming

2) Environmental education and training is provided in the farms for farmers, students, and agri-tourists from all walks of life

3) Socio-cultural and economic benefits

4) Nature-friendly and value-added ecotourism products and services

5) Nature-friendly, culture-friendly, and people-friendly facilities

 

Masungi Georeserve

 

1) A core commitment towards a balanced coexistence of man and nature and a vision to become the top geo-tourism destination and respected conservation area in the Philippine for the international community through the triple strategy of conservation, education and sustainable development

2) A conservation plan which employs four effective approaches (Secure Conservation Model, Landscape Scale Conservation, Restoration, Limited Development & Geo-tourism for Conservation), including the use of geo-tourism to continuously, sustainably, and independently fund their conservation activities and a geo-tourism which follows the principles that enable man to exist in harmony with nature.

3) Community involvement and benefit

4) Ecological Education goes with the conservation efforts and geo-tourism policies for the protection of the environment

5) Adequate and appropriate facilities and amenities

THE POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

With its outstanding ecotourism practices, the researchers recommended the replication of one policy of  Costales Nature Farms which is to encourage local communities and visitors to start their own organic farms, produce their own healthy food, and live healthy, sustainable lives that are not dependent on industrially-produced vegetables, poultry, and meat.

The local government units (LGUs) should learn from the example of Costales Nature Farms and encourage their own communities to do the same and to start promoting urban gardening in the cities.

In the same manner, the Masungi Georeserve Park’s success story is recommended to be replicated by other ecotourism sites in the Philippines, especially those in danger of being degraded and destroyed by mining, quarrying, and logging operations.

The study on ecotourism with its relevance to sustainable development, is aligned with the NRCP priority programs under the National Integrated Basic Research Agenda or NIBRA for 2017-2022, specifically on Sustainable Communities under the program on Vulnerable Ecosystems,  Environment and Anthropogenic Activities.

A full copy of the study on the best practices of the 16 ecotourism sites, and corresponding policy recommendations will be soon available at the NRCP Library Management System at https://scientificlibrary.nrcp.dost.gov.ph/.