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A ‘sustainable tourism’ program for the Philippines


SUSTAINABLE tourism” – this will be the driving force in the devel­opment of the country’s tourism industry in the coming months and years, Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat of the Department of Tourism said Thursday in a forum at the Manila Bulletin.

It was the need to save Boracay from the degradation that it was falling into that moved President Duterte to close down the top Philippine tourist is­land six months ago. It will have a “soft opening” this month but only partly, with only 25 of the hundreds of hotels, inns, and restaurants which have fully complied with all rehabilitation requirements allowed to open. Rehabili­tation will continue even after October and the second phase is expected to end in April, 2019. A third and final phase will end in December.

It had been feared when Boracay was closed down last May at the height of the tourism season that the country’s tourism arrival figures would suffer, but this did not happen. For the seven-month period from January to July, tourist visitors to the Philippines numbered 4.5 million, up from 3.92 million in the same period in 2017.

What happened was that foreign tourists discovered that there are many other places to visit in the Philippines – Cebu’s historic sites, Panglao in Bohol, Misibis in Albay, El Nido in Palawan, Puerto Galera in Mindoro, swim­ming with “butanding” whale sharks in Donsol, Albay, surfing in La Union, deep-sea diving in Anilao and Verde Islands in Batangas, surfing in Surigao del Norte.

In her visits all over the country, Secretary Puyat said, she met many for­eign visitors in the most unexpected places, drawn by historic churches, the mountains and beaches, the food, the local folk and their festivals. And there are over 7,000 islands to explore, each with its distinctive natural beauty, historic significance, and friendly people.

Boracay, the secretary said, was closed down for six months and has be­come the “pilot undertaking on sustainable tourism.” The goal is to strike “a balance between business opportunities and social responsibilities.” The government will now move to examine all tourism sites all over the country to ensure that we do not have another Boracay “cesspool” in the making.

Tourism numbers are important and we will keep inviting people of other lands to our islands. But we will do this with due concern for the environ­ment, in compliance with our laws and ordinances, and in keeping with our values and our way of life as Filipinos.