Smart backs ecotourism initiatives in Mindanao
Tourism officers and planning officers from local government units in Northern Mindanao recently joined an ecotourism workshop initiated by Smart Communications in partnership with the Department of Tourism–Region 10.
The two-day training was designed to enhance ecotourism knowledge among local stakeholders and equip them for the preparation of their tourism plans.
Facilitated by Joselito “Boboi” Costas, Cebu provincial tourism officer and founder of Grassroots Travel, a community-based tourism organization, the workshop focused on community participation, protection of natural resources, and ecotourism as business.
“I’m very happy that Smart initiated this workshop because we need the help of the private sector,” said Tourism Regional Director Marie Elaine Salvana-Unchuan in her opening remarks. “This is the first step toward conserving all our ecotourism sites. Every place in Region 10 has something to offer, but the protection of these areas should be the priority of our local legislators,” she said.
“Mindanao holds many opportunities for ecotourism development to help local communities, with its mountain ranges, underwater coral gardens, and endemic animal species,” shared Costas, who organized the Bojo Aloguinsan Ecotourism Association in Cebu.
“In Aloguinsan, the locals themselves became empowered to protect the environment once we raised their awareness on environmental protection,” Costas added.
The association bagged several international accolades, including the Asean Tourism Award, for its efforts in community tourism.
The intensive two-day workshop showed the tourism officers the importance of cultural mapping, and their role in conservation and community education. Apart from the lectures, the participants also learned a lot from an ecotourism game, where they brainstormed with group mates on what decisions would lead their ecotourism development to success.
At the end of the workshop, representatives of each of the five provinces in the region presented their proposed ecotourism plans, which they would present to their local chief executives.
“This effort is very useful and timely for our tourism activities,” said Albert Medina, Misamis Occidental tourism officer. One of the major ecotourism projects of the province is to develop the Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park, which was declared an Asean Heritage Park in 2012.
He said the provincial tourism office would replicate the workshop to provide decision makers and legislators with a better understanding of ecotourism.
“Northern Mindanao is rich in potential for ecotourism, with the cultural heritage of Bukidnon and Misamis Occidental, and the vast wealth of natural resources in the region. We hope that through this workshop, we can help our local partners with their efforts in conservation and community empowerment,” said Maria Jane Paredes, Smart Visayas-Mindanao public affairs head.
In collaboration with the public sector, Smart aims to enhance tourism efforts in the regions through capacity-building and digital innovations. Some of Smart’s tourism projects include the recently unveiled KulToura app in partnership with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
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