Philippines/ Tourism: the Philippines turns to sustainable development

Published on 21/06/2024 | La rédaction


A particularly popular destination in Southeast Asia for its scuba diving spots, the country is becoming increasingly aware of the urgent need to protect its environment by avoiding overtourism, as this Frenchwoman living in the Philippines explains.

The country attracts millions of foreign tourists every year, in search of paradise beaches, natural landscapes and scuba diving. In fact, diving is the country's main activity for holidaymakers.

At the age of 30, Julie Bureau has just moved to the Philippines. She offers her foreign clients turnkey or à la carte holidays throughout Southeast Asia. The Frenchwoman confirms that tourism has become a priority for the authorities.

They've realized the potential there is in the Philippines," she assures us, "and the money it could bring back to the country. For them, one key to developing tourism is to be aware of that."

There's nothing anecdotal about the sector. Last year, dive tourism brought in over a billion euros to the Philippine economy. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos is pushing private companies to embark on sustainable tourism initiatives and invest in infrastructure.

Today, diving activities are offered on 120 of the archipelago's 7,000 islands, including the Frenchwoman's island of Siquijor, where measures are taken to protect the flora and fauna.

"As soon as it's full moon," she says, " there's no underwater activity allowed, neither diving nor snorkeling, to let the fish reproduce quietly during the full moon."

Boracay Island, meanwhile, was closed to tourism for six months in 2018 to allow for its ecological restoration after years of over-visitation and degradation. Since its reopening, the island has implemented measures to limit the number of visitors, regulate boating activities, manage waste and protect sensitive areas. The counter-example is Oslob Island," explains Julie Bureau.

It's an overexploited area for whale sharks," she observes. They feed them, there's no more migration. Whale sharks stay there year-round. There's a two-hour queue to get into the water to see the whale sharks. They want to avoid reproducing this kind of place now."

The Philippines boasts exceptional biodiversity, with more than 50,000 animal and plant species, a third of which are endemic, not to mention exceptional coral reefs. Climate change is another factor affecting the environment in the Philippines, one of the most vulnerable countries, due to its geographical location exposed to natural hazards such as typhoons, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. According to the Frenchwoman, the Philippines is at a crossroads.

It's a country that's still preserved and not totally destroyed by tourism," she says, " but it can very quickly fall into mass tourism like certain places in Thailand. They're trying, but it's a bit complicated: they're in between: you have to make money, and you have to explain to the locals that you can't do just anything either."

Other examples of sustainable tourism in the Philippines include the development of community tourism, which involves local people in the management and enhancement of their natural and cultural heritage, or ecotourism, which offers environmentally-friendly accommodation and services, such as eco-lodges, organic farms or bicycle tours.


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