Senator Joel Villanueva today urged the government to develop strategies and programs on sustainable tourism citing the initiatives implemented in France for a more environment-friendly tourism.
Villanueva, together with the Philippine senate delegation, met with members of the French senate to discuss how the two nations can work together to promote sustainable tourism policies while recognizing the negative impacts of tourism development on the environment and climate change.
"We want to ensure that we protect our nature by promoting sustainable tourism. Our country's tourism industry generates about 5 million direct employment, and we believe that it is both the government and the private sector's responsibility to preserve our nature and conserve our heritage," Villanueva said.
"France remains to be the world's leading tourist destination with over 85 million tourist arrivals yearly as it promotes eco-responsible projects such as recycling waste, reducing water and energy use, and responsible sourcing. Also, France was able to preserve thousands of its monuments and sites that made it attractive to millions of tourists," Villanueva explained.
Villanueva then expressed his frustrations about how the government is handling the conservation of our cultural heritage particularly Intramuros which only has a budget of P50 million this year, a drastic cut from last year's P443 million allocation.
"We call on the government to promote sustainable planning and management of our historical sites such as Intramuros which is one of the world-class tourism gems in the Philippines. We believe that we can do more when it comes to preserving our cultural heritage by allocating enough budget to fund the restoration and reconstruction efforts of Intramuros in Manila, Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan, Biak na Bato in San Miguel, Bulacan, and other historic heritage to attract more international and domestic tourists," said Villanueva.
"We have recorded more than 1.2 million visitors in the first two months of 2017, this is about 10% higher than the 1 million tourist arrivals in the same period last year. If we follow the tourism development policies of France and develop better infrastructure in the Philippines' tourism destinations, we can also reach our maximum tourist arrivals and eventually open more employment opportunities in the tourism industry," Villanueva added.
Villanueva also noted that sustainable tourism is necessary to prevent tourism development from destructing our rich natural heritage citing the commercialization and overdevelopment of Boracay Island, and that he is willing to work with stakeholders to develop laws that will promote sustainable tourism.
"While we want to attract more tourists, we should learn our lessons from Boracay which self-destructs due to poor planning and inappropriate sewerage system. We therefore urge all stakeholders to participate in raising awareness about sustainable tourism and promoting earth-friendly tourism practices," Villanueva stressed.