Aimed at boosting further the tourism industry in Sablayan, the municipality’s ecotourism office led by Ms. Sylvia T. Salgado launched the inception workshop last July 15, 2015 at the Sangguniang Bayan Session Hall located at the 2nd Floor of the Sablayan Municipal Building. This also serves as a kick-off activity towards the drafting and formulation of the local government’s Tourism Master Plan. The workshop participants came from practically all over the place from both public and private spheres. The tourism blue print formulation is facilitated by Ms. Chen Reyes-Mencias and her hubby Louie F. Mencias of the Blue Water Consultancy, both staunch advocates and prominent figures in Asia with regards to environmental education and preservation. The firm’s main task is to provide technical assistance to the local government unit in coming up with tourism master plan. Next to agriculture, tourism is lifeblood of this largest municipality in the Philippines.
Ms. Mencias, while presenting the rationale of the project, have made me discover the negative impacts of unplanned tourism like what was exposed in the documentary “Gringo Trails”. Right here in the Mindoro Island, in April last year, Robert Evora in an article in the Manila Standard Today wrote about the enormous shortage of potable water in Puerto Galera. Romeo Roxas, president of the Puerto Galera Business and Tourism Enterprises Association as quoted in the news item disclosed that, “The town has no tourism development plan, no environment management plan and Puerto Galera is fast losing its former grandeur”. Uncontrolled sewage discharge to its coastal waters is the main ecological disturbance threatening said former quiet and serene coastal town of Oriental Mindoro. In Puerto Galera, particularly the White Beach, urban planning and zoning was overlooked. These are classic examples of lack of effective and sustainable tourism plan, aside from hundreds of cultural, social (and moral) dangers posing as hazards brought about by unplanned tourism. This also caused concern to environmental groups due to said tourist destination’s close proximity to a highly sensitive marine biodiversity area like the world acclaimed Verde Island Passage, a strait that separates the islands of Luzon and Mindoro.
In Lubang town, also in Occidental Mindoro some years back, Blue Water assisted in mapping out the municipality’s tourism plan through resource mapping and resource inventory of its islands. Lubang Island’s tourism industry is gradually claiming prestige as of this time. Many people, me, included, made mistake in thinking that tourism only deals with promotion or promoting tourist destinations or spots in the social media or elsewhere. Tourism isn’t just organizing tourism councils and establishing tourism offices. Tourism is not only event organizing and projecting cultural activities only the elites and the socialites taking the center stage. Tourism must also serve the people in the community and not just the tourists,- both foreign and local, the local government, businessmen and the contractors. How? That should be considered in the blue print. Ms. Mencias’ input was Tourism 101 for me for it’s the first formal lecture I have received about the industry. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of the so-called Butler’s Tourism Life Cycle.
The administration of Mayor Eduardo B. Gadiano is in full gear vying for an ecotourism program for “Amazing Sablayan”. It looks forward for sustainable and pro-poor tourism programs which highly consider the plight of the people and their base resources. But to his mind, as relayed in the opening remarks of his executive assistant Bong Marquez in the inception workshop, Sablayan’s best practices in local governance, as magnified in various national awards that made the municipality as a frontline municipality in the country, could also attract tourists aside from its being one of the ecotourism destinations in MiMaRoPa region.
Sablayan in more ways than one (for lack of space I cannot enumerate all here), have demonstrated key features of good governance which include openness, participation, effectiveness, accountability and coherence. These principles must be adhered and/or added to town’s tourism program. The local chief executive also expects that aside from his town’s tourist destinations like national parks Mts. Iglit-Baco and the Apo Reef and the other scenic places, people or tourists from all over would visit Sablayan to study the programs and policies initiated by his administration that again, are too many to mention.
And of course, any visionary leader would not allow his or her tourism program become contributory channel for social, natural and cultural attenuations …
(Photo: Heraldion Manzano)