Tourism and the environment are allies

DOT SPEECH 27 Feb 1999

Tourism and the environment are allies
By Gemma Cruz Araneta
Secretary of Tourism
Launching of Conservation Programs
Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM)
El Nido, Palawan, 27 Feb 1999


Ladies and Gentlemen:

Believe it or not, I was here 14 years ago, it was a fantastic  adventure just to  get here from Manila. I remember that when we were already in a small boat approaching  Miniloc, a sting ray suddenly jumped out of the  water, right before my eyes, and dove in again. Palawan is indeed the last frontier, I told myself  at that magical moment.

I was a guest of the Department of Tourism, (DOT) then headed by Secretary Jose Aspiras ,Sunshine Jose. They wanted to shoot some video footage with me inviting tourists to visit Palawan. I fell in love with the place so I am very happy to be back. Thank you Governor Socrates and Senator Tanada of the PRRM for inviting me. The DOT has included North Palawan as one of our  8 Anchor destinations.

I came across  a 1996 report of the JICA ( Japan International Cooperation Agency) titled, “Environmentally Sustainable Tourism  Development Plan for North Palawan”, but I do not know to what extent it was implemented by the DOT,  or if Governor Socrates was given a copy. Anyway, let me share a few points so we can  assess where we stand now.  The JICA report said:

  • That the natural resources of Palawan are no longer as intact as we would like them to be due to environmental degradation.
  • That there was a lack of infrastructure; no transportation network, water supply, electricity, communications, waste management and accommodation facilities.
  • That the government should attend to human resource development so the benefits of tourism will redound to host communities.
  • That tourism in Palawan should be developed by clusters, one of which is the El Nido-Taytay cluster.
  • That the scale of tourism development should depend on the carrying capacity of the area.
  • That Palawan must have an Environmentally Critical
    Areas Network (ECAN)
  • The local government and host communities should be involved in different stages of tourism development from planning to management.

Today,  the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement is launching three programs which are in tune with the objectives of the DOT for Palawan and, coincidentally, with the recommendations contained in  the JICA study.

The PRRM  programs are as follows:

  • The El Nido Community-based Conservation and Development Program
  • The El Nido Solar Energy Program
  • The PRRM Eco-development Tourism Program.

Senator Tanada and Gov. Socrates,  you can be assured that the Department of Tourism will support your programs because these contribute to the  conservation of the natural history of Palawan ,  and are relevant to the specific needs of the local communities, specially the indigenous ones. Your programs show that  it is possible to take care of the environment and of the people at the same time, that people who develop tourism and  those who care for the environment  are not enemies but allies.

At this point, I must confess something; I was surprised that the PRRM is now involved with environmental issues and tourism development. As the name of your association implies,  the PRRM is known for its connections with the agricultural and rural sectors. In fact, I know some of your original members like Salvador Araneta, my husband’s uncle, and his friends Messrs. Conrado Benitez and Albano Sycip. Senator Tanada’s grandfather was probably a member as well. Apparently, through the years the PRRM has extended its helping hand to other sectors.  It may interest you to know that  the DOT is  also promoting agri-tourism as part of our thrust to strengthen domestic tourism.

Thank you once again, PRRM. for these excellent community-based programs . Mabuhay!