In a place where almost everyone is a traveler, we tend to forget that whenever we step out of our own home we become visitors. As visitors, we extend the same kind of care and respect we give to our own home and family. But is this really the case?
My friends and I went camping a few weeks ago and though it was a great experience, especially the sunset view from a small peak in the mountain, we faced a few real environmental issues that hit us close to home.
Zambales is a 4-6 hour drive (depending on the traffic) from Manila. I personally think it’s the closest and quickest escape I have if I want to get out of the city. It has a few surf spots and a whole lot of coves and islands. So yes, we love the place.
Anawangin Cove used to be a great camping place (that’s only a few years back) but when we got there, camping tents where everywhere even near the shoreline. There’s nothing wrong with that except for the pile of trash you see everywhere too, including those floating in the sea. So we decided to skip that island and snorkel in the middle of the ocean instead.
We camped in Nagsasa Cove and there we noticed a few more other things that we want to address.
- There is no one unit or coordinator that supervises the flow of tourists and agencies in the island. The locals are left to their own devices. Any tour operator can bring their customer as long as they know a boatman, they have rented a boat, and they know the locals. And based on my experience, I don’t even think they charge an environmental fee.
- Locals earn their living through the sari-sari store where items are almost double the original price, and other services like cooking meals, lending tents, lights, and even bonfires.
- The locals collect the trash and burn them.
If we think about it, these are not sustainable actions and do not help preserve the natural beauty of the place. Sooner or later the locals will lose the very source of their income if we don’t help them.
What are our proposed solutions?
While relaxing in our camping site, we managed to come up with some solutions that might get us somewhere.
- We can propose to the locals a program or framework that they can follow and execute. It involves having a centralized system where they can track the flow of tourists, charge environmental fees if needed to help maintain the area, and allow only certified tour operators. Ideally, we give the livelihood back to the locals. I’m sure there is an existing program similar to this idea so we have started researching on the best practices.
- Along with this framework is also an educational program or training. We empower the locals and make them responsible by giving them the information they need to enforce the rules and regulations.
- Both locals and tourists can have a briefing and debriefing program as part of the tour or visit. This can be used to inform them about the area, the rules and regulations, and also some educational bits that they can take home with them.
- Aside from setting fines for littering, we can also rethink how we can manage the plastics and non-biodegradable items that tourists bring to the island. Is it fair to ban the use of plastics in the island? That’s a separate discussion.
- The waste management. There are a few trash bins in the island but still, locals collate and burn them at the end of the day. Burning trash is not a good idea and definitely not good for the environment especially if there are plastics. So, we need to help them with waste management and include it in the framework too.
I am writing this, not just as a climate change advocate, but more so because I believe that we are all connected and we need to make a change, together.
We need your help to make this happen. And once we have the framework in place, we want to do this not only in Zambales but also in the other hidden gems, spots, islands that we have in the Philippines, wherever it is needed.
Getting the news out there is the first step. Now it’s time to make it happen!
What is your part?
You can help by participating and collaborating with us and help execute the programs.
We are looking at the following:
- Creating and executing ecotourism programs
- Coastal clean up drives
- Training programs for local communities
- Building community gardens and the like that can be a local source of food and income and
- Supporting and promoting local products and businesses
If you have other ideas and suggestions I am more than willing to collaborate. As part of the Climate Reality Project, we can help educate and present more information about climate change and how we can help organize solutions in our own communities.
So yes, you are invited to an *Ecotourism Program.
RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org
*This serves as one of the advocacies of Anahata Exchange, help us spread more positive vibes!