The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has called for a shift to “regenerative” tourism to boost the country’s ecotourism.
In a statement, DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga defined regenerative tourism as simply “leaving a place better than it was before.”
Pitching the call for regenerative tourism in a speech delivered by DENR Undersecretary for Legal and Administration Ernesto D. Adobo Jr. during the International Ecotourism Forum held in Manila from March 29 to April 2, Loyzaga said regenerative tourism goes beyond the environment and looks at the social and economic development of communities, preservation of local cultures, and protection of biodiversity.
“It is the understanding that everything is connected and the interactions between every stakeholder throughout the tourism value chain have impacts on each other and our ecosystems,” she explained.
The DENR chief emphasized the importance of transitioning towards tourism that regenerates the environment and provides economic, social and environmental benefits, and taking into account climate change.
She noted the country’s tourism sector faces challenges brought about by climate change, extreme weather events as well as slow and rapid onset of hazard that impede potential to be a driver of environmental and cultural protection, economic progress, and social development.
The DENR has been at the forefront of ecotourism development through sustainable management of protected areas (PAs) under the National Integrated Protected Areas System or NIPAS program, Yulo-Loyzaga said.
The program promotes sustainable tourism and responsible travel to natural areas through national and localized guidelines and standards, educational conservation, and economic and social development of local communities.
“Equity is central to ecotourism. Development assistance for communities to help them leverage the economic value of their natural assets should be strengthened,” Loyzaga stressed.
According to the DENR chief, ecotourism “can be a powerful tool for conservation, community development, and education, but it requires careful planning and management to ensure that it benefits both the environment and local communities.”
Ecotourism development is also supported by the National Ecotourism Strategy and Action Plan (NESAP) jointly developed by the DENR and the Department of Tourism.
NESAP is currently being updated to incorporate strategies on disaster risk reduction and management, address the impacts of the pandemic, expand its scope from PAs to ecotourism areas, and participate in monitoring and conservation initiatives.
Loyzaga further emphasized that ecotourism serves as an avenue for the participation of local communities in biodiversity conservation in PAs, which is critical to climate change mitigation and disaster risk reduction.
To sustainably manage PAs and biodiversity resources, Loyzaga said the proper valuation of these assets is critical to recognize biodiversity’s actual and realized contribution to the economy and true cost of natural capital loss.
Under Loyzaga’s administration, the DENR has established a national natural resource geospatial database and a natural capital accounting system, which will significantly aid in the prioritization of investments and actions for the country’s environment and natural resources.
The DENR likewise instituted a climate change tagging system in its national budget and crafted legislation on the protection of millions of hectares of forests, wetlands, caves, mangroves, and reefs.
The International Ecotourism Forum is the highlight of the first-ever 2023 International Ecotourism Travel Mart organized by the Asian Ecotourism Network, a regional initiative of the Global Ecotourism Network that showcased practical insights and effective steps on sustainable tourism.