The Philippines is well known for its stunning natural beauty; with superb beaches, amazing wildlife, and blue waters. There are islands and waterfalls dotted with mountains and greenery, which are a natural pull for tourists from all over the globe.
But with time and over-exposure, these natural resources have been harmed and are now at risk. This leaves us in a tricky scenario; a nation whose 12.2 percent of revenue comes from tourism cannot stop tourists from entering the country, can it? The solution lies in responsible and eco-tourism.
The department of tourism of the Philippines took up eco-tourism as priority a few years ago. They have created certain laws which make eco-tourism a more profitable way to do business in the local tourism industry.
There are ample opportunities in the Philippines to promote eco-tourism. It is not only about protecting the environment, but also supporting local communities and making sure the money goes to the right suppliers, who practice the law and defend both nature and community.
Below are the best ways you can become a responsible traveler and a part of the solution – not the problem. You can help keep this little slice of paradise intact and safe from the harms of intrusive tourism.
Stay with the locals
To experience a place in the most organic way possible, stay in the houses of the locals and enjoy the hospitality, food and culture of Philippines directly from them! Homestays are a new initiative in the country, aimed at promoting eco-tourism and supporting local homeowners.
Batanes, with the indigenous Ivatan people, is a destination which resists modernization in order to preserve the culture of the tribe. Another destination which is popular for eco-tourism is Banaue – where the rice fields are a major tourism attraction – as they are often called as the eighth wonder of the world. They were made in ancient times, largely by hand. You can go there, trek the rice terraces and stay at a native cabana while learning about the ways of the local Ifuago tribe.
Vigan city is another destination which is a popular world heritage site and eco-tourism spot, thanks to the preserved Spanish planned township. The amalgamation of Filipino, Spanish and Chinese cultures which can be seen here is like nowhere else in the world. While visiting Vigan city, you can stop by many of the local workshops and eateries and support the local industries while also learning a lot along the way.
Go for eco-friendly way to see wildlife
Oslob is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Phillippines, since it allows tourists to pet and feed whale sharks. However, this practice is not eco-friendly at all. They take tourists into the water and constantly keep the sharks around by feeding them excessively. The area is small and there are too many people, making it a crowded and polluted site. It makes the whale sharks greedy and unnaturally they want to stay for the free food rather than migrate.
If you go to Donsol in Sorsogon, here the tourism policy is quite strict and doesn’t allow the tourists to spend more time with the wild creatures than necessary. They are also not allowed to be fed, hence the natural habitat and behavior of the animals are intact. The sightings of the animals here are rare but authentic. The number of boats is also under control, so the water is clearer and better too.
Be a volunteer
Of course, volunteering is one of the original ways to help a country out while travelling there. There are good volunteer programmes in the Phillippines – but volunteering must be done correctly and not as ‘voluntourism‘. If you only have a few weeks to spare, it’s wrong to be volunteering with vulnerable people who may need long-lasting relationships, but you can definitely do some renovation or construction!
It’s also important to only do volunteer gigs that you are qualified for. Even if the positions don’t require it, the ethics of teaching English with no TEFL qualification is dubious – I wouldn’t recommend it.
So, it’s important to make sure that you’re volunteering with the right companies. I encourage you to do your own research, but you could do things like:
- Renovation jobs in Palawan and Manila: you can be a renovation and construction volunteer in Palawan and also in Manila and they require skilled hands at all times. The rehabilitation program for 4 million homeless people is in full swing which needs extra people to fuel the flow.
- Become a PAWS volunteer: you can be a helping hand to the association PAWS who work for the betterment of stray animals.
- Greenpeace volunteer work: this is an organization in the Philippines which works for the sake of environmental care and peace. You can join them, if you have enough time to dedicate.
- I wouldn’t recommend volunteering with children unless you are a qualified social worker. Instead, you can donate to programmes like Project Malasakit, Project 200 and Project Pearls.
Stay in the eco – friendly resorts in the Philippines
Another thing you can do is to not book the fancy-looking places which are full of glitz and amenities but rather go for a resort which follows eco-friendly practices and cares for the environment while they care for you. here is a small list of suggested resorts:
- Dolphin resort, Moalboal which has a marine biologist on roll who cares for the coral reef they own. Also, it runs on solar power and bottled water is prohibited.
- Bohol eco-friendly resort, Amorita which has its own waste recycling facility and also holds contests for sustainability initiatives in the premises.
- Tao Philippines cruises and stays are the best for island hopping because they take sustainability and eco-restoration seriously. They follow digital detox and let you interact with the locals and tribes freely by providing homestay experiences.
- El nido resorts are all eco-friendly which don’t use plastic on their premises and recycle waste on their own. These are all private island resorts of the highest standards imaginable.
- Palawan eco- resort which is essentially impact-free and supports various NGO’s who want to raise awareness about dynamite and cyanide fishing in the Philippines.
- Evolution dive resort in Malapascua, a diver’s paradise makes sure all the divers are educated towards the duty to help save the marine environment. Tepanee beach resort is a small resort which composts and grows vegetables (also for the staff to take home) and the owner teaches the local kids swimming for free.
These are all good resorts which are also environmentally aware.
Sustainable travel in the Phillippines
Have an offbeat travel experience which is also the need of the day considering the immense damage we are doing to nature by our holidaying. It’s time we travel with a sense of responsibility.