Durano stresses need to protect marine ecosystem

By JADE LOPEZ, Reporter

TOURISM Secretary Ace Durano has underscored the need for tourism stakeholders to protect the country’s marine protected areas in order to lure high-end eco-tourists.

Durano said: “Tourism is not just about putting up high end hotel accommodations but in preserving our environment.”

He added: “Scuba diving is a recession proof tourism package and in order for us to remain competitive, we need to protect our marine protected islands from improper management of wastes.”

Before garbage disposal in Malapascua Island––a small island located off the coast of northern Cebu- becomes a problem, the Department of Tourism (DoT) has allocated P1.7 million to implement a solid waste management program there.

Before the Holy Week celebration, Durano met with Malapascua’s local government unit and tourism stakeholders to turn over the first tranch of the P1.7-million fund assistance amounting to P300,000, a move by DoT to protect the marine ecosystem of the island.

The DoT has partnered with the Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation (CCEF) to materialize the program’s five-year immediate goal that is to implement Republic Act 9033, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, at the barangay level.

The island, which is under the municipality of Daanbantayan, is identified by CCEF not only as a world-class diving site but is also home to the best and worst solid waste practices, especially when one of the major concerns there is inadequate sanitation facilities.

“We’ve long wanted to work in Malapascua Island because of its valuable natural resources,” said CCEF executive director Liza Osorio.

Based on an informal survey conducted by CCEF last year, there are already 32 establishments with 300 rooms in Malapascua. For the first two months this year, around 900 tourists already went to the island.

With high-end eco-tourists now flocking to the island, every year, the local government believes it is high time to implement a solid waste managment program given the increase of tourism and economic activities in the island.

“Malapascua may look like a ‘virgin island’ from afar but our concern there is the improper disposal of garbage,” punong barangay Rex Novabos admitted.

Under the program, the barangay will take charge of collecting segregated waste that will be sent to an organic waste processing facility and a vermiculture bed that will be put up.

Byproducts of the waste processing will be sold as organic fertilizer or bio-blocks made of melted Styrofoam that can be a source of income for residents of Malapascua.

A social worker will also be deployed in the island for one year to conduct an information and education campaign on the program.
This is the second time the DoT has partnered with the CCEF for marine preservation.

In 2006, DOT released P4.8 million to set up the solid waste management program in Boracay after hotels and resorts in the popular destination complained of the foul smell from a nearby landfill in the island.

“A similar program will be implemented in Malapascua Island before it becomes a problem. We need to advocate, then capitalize. Put your money where your mouth is and then empower the people to sustain it,” Durano said.

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