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Sustainable Tourism In The Philippines

World Travel – Sustainable Tourism

Open Eyes Opinion {source: UNEP}

Philippines

Sustainable Tourism Thrives in Philippines’ Largest Marine Sanctuary

“To conserve biodiversity is to sustain life. We need Nature. Nature does not need us.” UNEP Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw

About 420 kilometers south-west of Manila, in Bacuit Bay, lies the largest marine sanctuary in the Philippines. El Nido is a protected area of 45 islands and islets covering a total of 903 square kilometers, and boasts one of the most diverse ecosystems in the region.

In the last ten years the number of tourists flocking to El Nido’s white beaches, lush forests, and sculpted jade islands has more than tripled. But while tourism is a mainstay of El Nido’s economy, it is an industry sensitive to reef conditions: once coral reefs are damaged, areas home to those reefs lose their attraction as tourist destinations.

The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network estimates that the world has effectively lost 19 per cent of productive reef area, with another 15 per cent under immediate threat. Approximately 500 million people depend on coral reefs for food, coastal protection, and income from tourism.

However, across the Asia-Pacific region and the Indian Ocean, the Green Fins initiative-established by UNEP and The Reef-World Foundation with other partners- is battling the trend of diminishing reefs by providing the only internationally recognized set of environmental standards for business owners and national authorities to promote best practices in sustainable diving and snorkeling tourism.

“Green Fins is a combination of what to do and what not to do to drive a sustainable industry,” said Reef-World Foundation project manager Samantha Craven. “In the Philippines, around 130 dive centres are registered Green Fins members and globally over 260. It’s a number that keeps growing as we also introduce the program in Vietnam and the Maldives.”

Since the introduction of Green Fins in El Nido in 2012, 16 dive shops and 60 snorkeling tour offices have established operations there. Ramil Panganiban, one such dive shop owner, is adamant that snorkeling and diving should be a sustainable activity.

“If we do not protect the environment, we will go out of business,” he said.

Sustainability is paying dividends for Mr. Panganiban, who started his company with just a table and a stack of flyers in 2011. He now caters for up to 20 tours a month, with three boats and a shop.

“Green Fins has been somewhat of a revolution amongst its members,” said Kim McMenemy, a diving instructor in Thailand. “I was sufficiently impressed by its philosophy, support, methodology and ease of use that I still actively implement it at my new dive centre, and thoroughly encourage all our instructors and divers to take part.”

Sustainable tourism is an important example of the Green Economy in action. As tourism continues to grow faster in developing countries than in developed countries, it is vital that Sustainable Consumption and Production patterns are integrated with tourism, so that the unique biodiversity of places like El Nido can be preserved and provide livelihoods for generations to come.

“To conserve biodiversity is to sustain life. We need Nature. Nature does not need us.” UNEP Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw

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