The Philippine archipelago of 7,107 islands offers diverse tourism activities and relaxation destinations for both local and international tourists. This developing country's ecotourism projects help in sustaining and protecting its natural resources, historical attractions and cultural heritage sites. With its tropical climate perfect for outdoor activities all year round, the Philippines is known as a top tourist attraction with many countless coastlines featuring thousands of natural coves and beaches. Its natural attractions provide a competitive advantage for its ecotourism projects.
History of Ecotourism in the Philippines
In 1991, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) collaborated with various government agencies and private organizations in the Philippines to make the country a bastion of ecotourism. It wasn't until 1999, however, that an executive order was passed to structure its development. The Department of Tourism (DOT) led the preparation of the Philippine Tourism Master Plan which aims to position the country as a world-class tourism destination. In 1992, the National Tourism Congress promoted the theme “ecotourism” with the guiding principle of sustainable tourism development. The plan culminated through a technical workshop to develop a framework on how ecotourism projects in the Philippines can be best realized.
National Ecotourism Development Council (NEDC)
In 1999, President Fidel Ramos proclaimed the Executive Order 111, which states: "The State shall develop and promote sustainable tourism while enjoining the participation of the Filipino people in enhancing the growth and competitiveness of the Philippine economy; and The State shall ensure the sustainable use, development, management, protection and conservation of the country’s environment and natural resources and cultural heritage for the enjoyment of the present and future generations." This formally established the organizational structure of ecotourism in the Philippines. It also led to the creation of the National Ecotourism Development Council (NEDC).
With Executive Order 111, the collaboration among the many branches of the government, along with the participation of the private sector and various non-government organizations, became the backbone of ecotourism in the Philippines. The government agencies including the Department of Tourism (DOT), Department Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Education (DepEd) and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) led these primary collaborations.
The Success of the National Ecotourism Strategy
The National Ecotourism Strategy outlines the spreading of wealth between economically stable parts of the country and impoverished rural areas, the conservation of historical and cultural sites, the promotion of environmental and conservation awareness, the implementation of educational programs and more. The success of the strategy led to a number of achievements in Philippine tourism. It also reached important market segments in the development of nationwide ecotourism projects. With a surging number of local and international tourists traveling to the many beaches and diving sites of Boracay, Cebu, Palawan, Bohol and many other areas in the country, more ecotourism projects continue to gain recognition and further development.
Travel Awards and Recognitions
Taking off from the acknowledgment of being Asia’s Most Popular Destination at the 2009 World Travel Fair in China, the Philippines was also part of that year's Top 5 Best Diving Areas and the Top 10 Most Desirable Destinations in Japan. The country was also cited first place in the Top 10 Emerging Food Destinations for “travelers seeking not only a new and fascinating experience but also an exotic culinary sensation,” by the Expedia travel website. According to the 2010 report of the DOT through Secretary Joseph Ace Durano, the country has been included in the Top 10 Best Destinations for elite travelers in China; awarded Best in Destination Promotions in Beijing; Best Travel Website representation in Russia; and the top spots in Scuba Diving Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Awards in the U.S. The National Geographic’s Adventure Travel Issue has also included the Philippines in its 25 Best New Trips for 2010. It had a special highlight on the mountains of Cordillera and the beaches of Bohol, two top travel destinations in the country. The Cordillera Rice Terraces was also cited in National Geographic’s 50 Places of a Lifetime.