Story and photos by Estrella Torres / Special to the Businessmirror
BOHOL lives up to its legacy as the Ecotourism Capital of the Philippines amid challenges of massive infrastructure projects. The six-month closure of paradise island Boracay is poised to further increase its tourist arrivals in the coming months. The province practices sustainable tourism that takes full account of environmental, economic and sociocultural impacts of tourism development.
Despite the strong political leadership of the local government, as well as support from the community, private investors have been critical of the success of Bohol’s ecotourism campaign.
Bohol Gov. Edgar Chato said the provincial government is actively promoting green tourism to mitigate threats of climate change and impact of calamities that affect the tourism sector.
Newly opened hotels and resorts in Bohol believe they share the responsibility to achieve sustainable tourism goals.
This development can be observed in many of Bohol’s attractions that revolve around Filipino traditions, cultural practices and native products made from indigenous materials.
Beyond providing luxury tourism facility, Bluewater Resort in Panglao has a Filipino-inspired architecture inside and out, with the steel roof topped by more than 6 inches of cogon grass that requires regular replacement every five years.
The cogon grass makes the structures, not only very Filipino, but also well insulated from heat and sound. Even heavy rains cannot be heard inside. Between the two rows of two-story premier deluxe buildings is nestled an almost 1,000-square-meter swimming pool with a poolside bar that uniquely offers adobo and sisig pizzas.
The 6.2-hectare resort is a well-landscaped paradise between heaven and the deep blue sea, but all in the context and character of a true-blue Filipino. It has 54 rooms and six venues for various functions.
Electric carts take guests around the verdant landscape featuring indigenous plants along the footpaths and walkways leading to the accommodation and leisure facilities, restaurant, events venues, activity areas and the 70-meter-wide beachfront.
A bridge runs across the pool to link the facades of the two buildings and provide access to an island-like central platform for sunbathing. A roofed and curtained open structure on an elevated ground nearby offers a relaxing massage.
Another pool of 520 sq m for day tours is situated near the 120-pax capacity restaurant and coffeeshop that serves buffet breakfast and a la carte meals. Leading its best-sellers is the adobo rice in bamboo with fried pork and lechon toppings.
The restaurant overlooks the beach, which is best for kayaking and snorkeling as it is just 300 meters away from a marine sanctuary. Buoys mark the perimeter of the sanctuary where the beach comes to a sudden steep drop, making a majestic coral wall out of the underwater cliff and attracting divers and marine videographers from around the world.
Bohol has over 75 islets with numerous waterfalls, caves and its pride—1,776 Chocolate Hills. The island province is home to many of the world’s wonders, such as the tarsier—an endemic primate that can only be found in the province.
With strong partnership between local government, private sector and community, many of the 15th-Century Spanish churches and ancestral houses damaged by the 2013 earthquake are not being rehabilitated and restored.
Bohol is developing new destinations, such as the mangroves in Banacon, white and powdery sands in Anda that can be on a par with Boracay and Lamanok’s mystical island.
Margie F. Munsayac, Vice president for Marketing of Bluewater Panglao, said the resort opened in 2011 and has endured the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in 2013.
The resort has drawn visitors from various parts of the Philippines, China, Korea, Taiwan, the United States and Europe.
Chato said sustainable tourism should be a model in all tourist destinations across the country to maintain natural environment, sociocultural heritage and push economic growth in provinces.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) defines sustainable tourism as tourism taking into full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.
There are three dimensions of sustainable tourism, according to the UNWTO. These include:
1) Make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.
2) Respect the sociocultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values and contribute to intercultural understanding and tolerance.
3) Ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socioeconomic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation.
The informed participation of all relevant stakeholders, particularly private investors and strong political leadership help ensure wide participation and consensus building.