Planned ASEAN meeting eyes featuring Boracay rehabilitation

The government’s rehabilitation of Boracay Island is being eyed as one of the cases to be presented in the planned ASEAN meeting on mainstreaming biodiversity in the tourism sector.

The presentation will help ASEAN member-nations learn how the Philippines carried out Boracay’s rehabilitation to prevent further environmental degradation of the world-famous resort island, Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, Executive Director of ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) said.

“From that presentation, ASEAN member-nations may be able to identify and even replicate best practices applicable to respective tourist areas,” she said on Wednesday (Sept. 5) at the sidelines of the ASEAN Biodiversity Heroes Regional Forum’s second leg in Metro Manila.

She said environmental conservation across Southeast Asia should be done, noting that the biodiversity-rich region is increasingly facing danger from climate change, habitat destruction and other threats, which may eventually drive species extinction in Southeast Asia, where even tourism will suffer if this happens.

“Biodiversity is among tourism’s attractions,” she noted, explaining need to mainstream or integrate conservation in tourism. Southeast Asia’s natural assets include the Coral Triangle which experts identified as center of the center of Earth’s marine biodiversity.

At the forum, ACB highlighted the role of biodiversity — the variety of all life on Earth — as resource that “underpins good environmental health, food security, climate resilience and sustainable development and well-being of mankind.”

Among conservation measures that experts identified, and which the tourism sector can implement, are the use of renewable energy to help lessen climate change-driving greenhouse gas emissions, restoration of habitats, patronization of environment-friendly products and educating the public about biodiversity’s importance.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said water pollution, accumulation of waste and encroachment in forestland and easements are among environmental problems hounding Boracay Island.

Boracay Island has been closed for six months to rehabilitate it beginning April 26 and will reopen on October 26.

Even if such work is still in progress, however, the DENR has reported improved water quality and return of some species to Boracay.

Lim said the target venue of the ASEAN meeting on mainstreaming biodiversity in the tourism sector is either Metro Manila or Cebu province.

The Philippines will host the meeting in coordination with DENR, she noted.

“What we want is to be able to share experiences on mainstreaming biodiversity in tourism,” she said, as she cited the case of neighboring Thailand which also closed and rehabilitated one of its beaches.

Conservation advocates featured during the two-day ASEAN Biodiversity Heroes Regional Forum’s second leg ending Wednesday were Cambodia’s Sophea Chhin, Indonesia’s Alex Waisimon and the Philippines’ Dr. Angel Alcala.

They were among 10 conservation advocates who received the ASEAN Biodiversity Heroes Award last year.

In March 2018, Vietnam hosted the forum’s first leg. The forum’s third leg has no venue yet but is scheduled in the fourth quarter of 2018. Aside from promoting ASEAN Biodiversity Heroes’ conservation activities, the ACB said the forum aims to inspire public action for saving and protecting biodiversity.