Reusable drinking straws made of bamboo, rather than the usual plastic, are quickly becoming the gifts visitors to the Lio Tourism Estate in idyllic northern Palawan bring home to friends.
The items, which come with a cleaner, are not only novel and affordable, their availability also signals the transformation of this thriving Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) community toward being a plastic-free tourist destination.
Along with the plastic straws sold at Lio’s artists’ village, the ubiquitous disposable plastic water bottles favored by travelers can no longer be found there or in the neighboring sitios of El Nido municipality following the implementation in December 2018 of an ordinance banning single-use and other plastics.
Mariglo Laririt, director for sustainability of ALI subsidiary Ten Knots Development Corp. (TKDC), said that respecting the natural environment has always been a cherished value of the company since its founding in the 1980s. Ayala Land acquired the subsidiary in 2010.
She says: “Implementing the ordinance was a natural progression of our other eco-friendly initiatives. These have included creating awareness among TKDC staff and the surrounding community the dire need for conservation, water recycling, sewage treatment, solid-wwzwaste management and related topics.”
Waste management is such a serious business in Lio and the island resorts that the company consciously measures its gains in this area.
Joey Bernardino, TKDC group director for sales and marketing, said that by the end of the year, its properties will have cut back on the annual use of 20,000 pieces of plastic straws and 65,000 pieces of disposable plastic bottles.
The straws have been replaced with paper ones; and the plastic bottles, with reusable water flasks guests may refill in water stations throughout the resorts. In the guest rooms, plastic containers for shampoo and soap have been exchanged for refillable pumps that hold the cleaning agents.
Bernardino relates that employees in the four El Nido Resorts and the four boutique hotels in Lio have also been banned from bringing sachets or plastic bottles of shampoo.
“This and other measures have drastically limited our output of single-use plastics into the ecosystem.”
Single-use plastics are not biodegradable, Laririt pointed. They end up in landfills where they are buried or, through waterways, find their way into the ocean.
“As much as 90 percent of all trash in the oceans are made of plastic,” she said citing a study.
Moreover, plastic waste in the ocean do not respect geographic or national boundaries. “Even if Bacuit Bay, which hosts seven of our eight resorts, has been a protected area since the 1980s, its 855 species of fish, over 400 corals and five of seven marine turtle species have remained at risk because of plastics mindlessly strewn into the oceans.”
Besides prohibiting the use of plastic disposables, TKDC has been actively protecting its immediate environment by creating awareness for the unique ecosystem of Bacuit Bay, “a huge slab of ancient reef from the Asian mainland.”
Its island-hopping tours and other activities have been supervised by guides carefully schooled in the different aspects of biodiversity, geology and geography.
“Our tours to the Big and Small Lagoons and other iconic spots raise our guests’ aspiration to see Bacuit Bay remain a showcase for biodiversity for decades to come,” she said.