Tourism industry steps up efforts against climate change

Feature story - December 2, 2009
The Department of Tourism (DOT) has stepped up its “Save the Climate Save Boracay” project which will be rolled out to other popular tourist destinations in the country.

DOT is rolling out its "GrEEn Destinations" project with Greenpeace, from Boracay to Bohol, and eventually to other destinations next year. Turnover ceremonies were held during the Energy Efficiency workshop for resort operators on December 2, 2009, in Boracay.

Now dubbed as "GrEEn Destinations," the project -- initiated through a partnership with Greenpeace Southeast Asia -- is an awareness campaign utilizing resorts that undertake Energy Efficiency measures and public information dissemination to their communities, local governments and stakeholders as contributions to the fight against climate change.

"The Philippine Government and the Department of Tourism acknowledge that climate change is an urgent issue, and that the tourism sector could be highly affected in the future," said Attorney Ma. Victoria Jasmin, DOT Director for Tourism Standards.  "Recent developments in Boracay, other parts of  the country as well as some parts of the region indicate that urgent measures need to be undertaken in order the avert the obvious negative impacts of uncurtailed carbon emissions..  The DOT fully supports the efforts at Energy Efficiency and we will be taking this initiative to other destinations around the country.  This will be our contribution to the reduction of carbon emissions from the accommodations sector, and in the process also educate our local and foreign tourists on the importance of our individual efforts in mitigating climate change."

DOT held a second-step workshop with resort operators in Boracay today, with industry representatives from Bohol now in attendance, as their island is next to implement the program.

The workshop is designed to provide resorts with options for lessening the carbon footprint of their establishments.  Architect Mike Guerrero of the Green Architecture Advocacy of the Philippines shared specific tips on energy efficiency for existing buildings and structures. Mark Dia, Deputy Campaign Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, amplified the call to act on climate change during the workshop, as tourism will be one of the hardest hit industries, especially with the increasing occurrence of extreme weather events in the archipelago, such as Ondoy and Pepeng.

Impacts of global warming, such as coral bleaching and diminishing beachfronts, are becoming more evident in our premiere tourist destinations.  A recent assessment made by experts from the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, show that Boracay's powdery white sand will be submerged due to sea level-rise and other factors related to climate change.

Greenpeace is advocating an Energy Revolution to address global carbon emissions, which is largely responsible for climate change. This is a two-pronged approach: (1) the replacement dirty, finite energy sources like coal with Renewable Energy (RE) sources; and (2) the use of Energy Efficiency (EE) measures to reduce consumption.

"Going renewable and becoming energy efficient is an all-win situation," said Beng Reyes Ong, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Energy Efficiency Campaigner. "Resorts not only get to save money, but they are also able to contribute to efforts in mitigating impacts of climate change. With 'GrEEn Destinations,' tourists and community members get to learn about climate change solutions, which they can, in turn, apply at home or bring to other places they visit."

At the close of the workshop, a symbolic turning of the globe was participated in by the DOT officials, Boracay participants and Bohol industry representatives, led by Jasmin, Dia, Boracay Foundation president Loubelle Cann, and Bohol Provincial Tourism Council head Atty. Lucas Nunag. The ceremony represents both the turning of the Earth from climate change, as well as the turnover and spread of "GrEEn Destinations" among industry representatives to all citizens as a reminder that each of us can make a difference in the fight to stop global warming.

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