Written by: Mr. Bingo Dejaresco
For so long a time since Bohol started to carve her niche in the tourism world, our “signature sites” (Chocolate hills, river ride,tarsier watch, Panglao beaches ) have gained landmark notices that we need now to discover new emerging destinations. If Bohol wishes to improve the number of the tourists arrivals and rekindle the vibrancy.
Thanks to the initial output of the JICA’s (Japan International Agency)efforts, Bohol launched yesterday the so-called “EcoTourism Bohol.” Its objectives are to encourage a well-balanced development of the whole Bohol, to put more fire to the new “Bohol branding”, to contribute on local economy and augment community income and thus multiply a tourist’s options-where once there were only few.
JICA also supports the program with a website (www.boholtourismph.com) for all “eco-tour sites”. Guide plates and Welcome Banners were given to sites as part of the Bohol Surprise Tours 1, 2 and 3. Other needs of eco sites were also addressed. The “Ecotourism Bohol Program” expects to come up with 10 more eco tours and JICA will prepare brochures for newly clustered- eco tours before the project ends.
Its good that an inventory of emerging sites was done so as to prioritize on which is more practical. truly attractive and viable sites to develop- in terms of cost , accessibility, and competitive edge.
“EcoTourism Bohol” developed three cluster areas in order to spread out the tourists destinations. They call it “Bohol Surprise Tours.”
Tour 1 clusters around the towns of Tubigon, Loon, Maribojoc and Tagbilaran City which includes loom weaving in Tubigon, Loon coral stairs, organic farm, mangrove adventure and the Punta Cruz watch tower in Maribojoc. Tour 2 includes the Lamanoc Island and white sandy beaches in Anda, calamay making in Jagna and the Clarin ancestral house in Loay. The Tour 3 includes the coco jam industry in Albur, iron-smith workshop in Loay, “Balay sa Humay” in Batuan, and the biodiversity complex in Bilar . These are the initial new products and sites which will go on a test run for tourists to enjoy.
Eco-tourism has been described by the DENR as the “non-extractive way of maximizing beauty”. Aside from the magnificent help of JICA, there are other institutions that can make “eco-tourism” a realistic proposition.
For instance, to make tourism growth inclusive, the government, through the DENR, is prepared to spend US$22-M or P1-B for mangrove development or rehabilitation and the coastal improvement of towns afflicted by Yolanda and the Super-Quake like those in Leyte, Samar, Bohol and Cebu. The Asian Development Bank is not closing its eyes either at financing organic and natural farming development and propagation of local crafts using the indigenous materials.Are their candidate-projects?
A model PPP (Public Private Partnership) has been recently tested where government will ensure the protection of the eco system while a Filipino-Korean company takes care of the marketing and collects the fees from tourists.
Our best bet, to our minds, is still the ” Mangrove Tour”- where Bohol has the distinction of having the biggest mangrove (natural and planted) and where only 2 of the 28 coastal towns and cities in the province -have no mangroves. A research study lamented that the mangrove “Bohol Edge” has not been exploited and properly marketed- the infrastructure thereof dilapidated and guides not thoroughly versed with the role of mangroves in the whole world of biodiversity and preservation of Nature.
In Banacon Island alone, the study noted, and in Cogtong Candijay area are 1,400 hectares of mangroves with 33 (!) different kinds of species found there.Aside from Candijay, it cited Talibon , San Vicente in Maribojoc and potentially Cabilao island in Loon which is sparked by a peaceful Lake Linao. Thousands of environmentalists from all over the world would be attracted to that kind of an educational, happy tour of this wondrous work of Nature.
Don’t look to far, though. An AIM Study rued the lack of marketing that had stalled the growth and popularity of the Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape. Bohol is already known for its biodiversity -in both land and marine species- and several of the endangered species are reportedly in Rajah Sikatuna.”It has karst-type forests and five watersheds”- as well,making the site a wondrous “miracle” that we Boholanos have failed to recognize under our very noses. And to think, the AIM Study concluded, that such “protected, diverse area” is along the tourist route cutting through the regular “countryside tour”. Such a pity. indeed.
People ,non-Boholanos are raving about the “Simply Butterflies” Conservation Center- we were pleasantly surprised that one to to be hugely educational on this wonderful ,beautiful creation (butterflies)which (we found out) have a very short life span,we gathered. And ,of course, the Abatan River cruise, with its fishing village stop and the underwater cave that can be seen while aboard the banca that is also a definite prime example of an “eco tourism” jewel-that needs more push.
Finally, the “EcoTourism Bohol” envisions to let the local residents feel the economic benefits of tourism and not just the hotels, restaurants, travel and transport services by propagating their own products and services- when the average tourist gets enamored by the novelty of them all and for the “value for money” they represent.