The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Tourism (DOT) have teamed up to ensure that the government’s biodiversity conservation efforts would not be compromised by ongoing tourism development projects in various parts of the country.
In line with the Aquino administration’s convergence strategy for sustainable development, a memorandum of agreement (MOA) was entered into by the DENR and the DOT to make sure that known ecotourism spots are preserved and threatened species living in those areas are well protected.
The agreement was signed by Secretary of Environment Ramon J.P. Paje and Secretary of Tourism Ramon Jimenez Jr.
According to Paje, preserving a biodiversity that attracts both local and foreign tourists, can lead to sustainable tourism.
Paje cited as example the world renowned Boracay Island where remains imperative to maintain and even improve the quality of its beaches to guarantee the continued presence of tourism in the area.
He also underscored the importance of preserving natural monuments and endangered animals that serve as tourist attractions.
“Can you imagine tourism in Bohol without the Chocolate Hills and tarsier? Or in Sorsogon without the butanding (whale shark)?” Paje asked.
At the same time, Paje cited the important role of the government’s convergence initiative in pursuing environmental protection programs, saying it “could double or even quadruple the impact of a project.”
A government undertaking, he said, would yield better results if two or more line agencies will work together to achieve its goals. “There are so many commonalities between the DENR and DOT when it comes to tourism. We can achieve our objective better if we do it through the DOT, and vice-versa,” Paje said.
The environment chief also cited the convergence initiative with the Department of Public Works and Highways in establishing the country’s critical watersheds, “where we are containing water in the upland, where it remains a resource, rather than managing it downstream where it is flooding.”
“We also have a program with the Department of Education, to promote awareness for environmentalism in schools,” he added, referring to the National Ecosavers Program where public school students can bring in their segregated solid waste to school in exchange for useful items and even cash.
The MOA signed between the DENR and DOT forms part of the implementation of a project entitled “Partnerships for Biodiversity Conservation: Mainstreaming in Local Agricultural Landscapes” or simply the Biodiversity Partnerships Project (BPP) launched in December last year.
The project involves training local government units (LGUs) in pilot sites, mostly threatened by unsustainable agricultural production and incompatible land use, on planning and managing economic activities without affecting remaining natural habitats. The sites were selected for being key biodiversity areas where conservation of the threatened species within them is a high priority.
Under the MOA, the DOT is tasked to provide technical assistance to local communities in establishing sustainable tourism enterprises and activities under a Sustainable Tourism-Biodiversity Conservation Framework and Implementation Plan, and to facilitate its adoption.
Meanwhile, the DENR, along with the Department of Trade and Industry and other partners in the program, would assess the feasibility of potential tourism projects in the BPP areas.
The BPP is a $17-million project funded by the Global Environment Fund (GEF) through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and implemented by the DENR through its Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB). Total grant proceeds from the GEF and UNDP are pegged at $4.8 million, while $12.2 million will be the counterpart from the Philippine Government and its partners, who come from LGUs and conservation organizations in the pilot sites.
The BPP started in September 2010, with actual operations commencing a year later, and is scheduled to end in December 2016. The eight pilot sites for the project are in the following areas: Peñablanca Protected Landscape in Cagayan Province; Quirino Protected Landscape in Quirino Province; Mt. Siburan in Sablayan, Mindoro Occidental; Malampaya Sound in Taytay, Palawan; Central Panay Mountains in Panay Island; Northern Negros National Park in Negros Occidental; Lake Mainit in Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Norte; and Mt. Hamiguitan in Davao Oriental.