Subscribe Us

Ilonggo Network

Environmental standards in tourism

Two weekends ago, I was able to revisit Sipalay City in southern Negros Occidental, and somehow, I was amused with the development I saw, especially the blooming tourism industry.

Sipalay was once dependent on mining and logging, in terms of its economy, and I think tourism is the best option to further boost the local economic conditions. However, the local government unit and other tourism stakeholders should also be careful in pushing too much for tourism without utmost considerations to the natural environment, which is the very reason why local and foreign tourists are attracted to this city.

It is important to note that nature-based tourism is now getting more globally popular. With the alteration, and to some extent destruction, of many natural environment, people tend to seek for the remaining areas where nature is still at its best, either found in mountains, freshwaters, coastal areas, or marine ecosystems.

It is, therefore, essential that whatever development for tourism purposes should always carry high environmental standards to ensure that natural attractions shall be enjoyed, not only by visitors, but also the residents in the long-term.

The long and white beach at the city proper of Sipalay is marvelous. It is here where the solid waste management program should be highly observed. In case additional tourism facilities shall be constructed fronting this beach, I hope they shall be carefully designed to blend with the environment and with complete sanitary sewage system, and to comply with necessary building standards and guidelines.

There must be clear coastal zoning regulations in this part of Sipalay to avoid incompatible development. As an alternative, the city may also consider providing assistance to local communities along the coast to cater to tourism products and services. This is in addition to existing eateries that are already available at the site. This part of the town is very ideal for water sports, because it is an open sea.

Sipalay has numerous islets, the famous of which is the so-called Tinagong Dagat, that are ideal for sightseeing, using boats because of the scenic features. It should be noted that most of these islets are karst and limestone forests, which are unique and important ecosystems. The local government should revisit the development of this site because some facilities have already alte red the natural setting of the islets.

I don't know if the lands in Tinagong Dagat are privately owned, but certain regulations should be in place to avoid further changes in the natural landscape and seascape of the area. What is actually in my mind is to free those islets from any development and use it for sightseeing purposes, while facilities for visitors should be constructed somewhere else.

The other popular site in Sipalay is Punta Ballo, where numerous resorts are already available. The place is really beautiful - the white sand is teaming with clean and crystal-clear water. I hope the quality of environment shall be maintained and even enhanced, but I guess, at this time, the carrying capacity of the area should already be assessed, particularly to what extent it can accommodate more facilities and visitors.

This is to avoid a situation similar to Boracay where algal bloom is now an issue. There should be strict monitoring on the compliance of the different resorts on environmental standards. During my first visit in this site, we called the attention of some visitors because they collected starfishes. Dive sites are also available in this site that they are now calling the Sipalay White Beach.

I don't know how much the city government is now deriving from tourism revenue. One possibility is for the LGU to collect environmental fee from visitors and this can be done in partnership with hotel and resort owners. Since it is quite difficult to monitor the entry of visitors, the LGU can start charging for visitors, who are staying overnight in different resorts. The LGU may require various resorts to collect environmental fee and remit the same to the city treasurer.

I'm sure the city government has its own tourism master plan already, but it is necessary to review and update it to incorporate additional measures to make the tourism development in Sipalay a more sustainable one. Some important concerns that should be considered in tourism are community participation and benefits, infrastructure design standards, quality of services and products, and the most important, the enforcement of environmental protocols and regulations.*

Post a Comment