Area Development Plan
Concern for the fragile ecosystem of small islands led to the formulation of the Central Visayas Isles Ecotourism Development Plan, 2012-2016. With climate change, the small islands are sees as most vulnerable and among the first to be affected by changes in climate. Protecting the integrity of the small islands is therefore a primary concern. Another equally major concern is increasing the access of the population of these islands to economic opportunities so that the people may have the means to attain a better quality of life.
Tourism is one of the more promising sectors in Central Visayas and one area where the small islands could have competitive advantage. Ecotourism in particular is emerging as a preferred tourism strategy as it puts premium on environmental protection rather than solely on economic growth. In Central Visayas with its many small islands, environmental protection is a major concern since the rich natural resources are not only the major factor that would draw tourists into teh region but also serve as sources of food and livelihood for the local population. The small islands of Central Visayas, namely: Bantayan Island and the Camotes Group of Islands in Cebu, and the Island of President Carlos P. Garcia in Bohol, hope to cash in on the growing ecotourism market by becoming significant tourist destinations in the Visayas area and Philippines. Through tourism, particularly ecotourism, the Central Visayas Isles Ecotourism Development Plan seeks to jump start the local economies of the islands, and in the process uplift the socio-economic status of the small islands as well as that of the local population. A total of eight (8) municipalities are covered by the Plan, three in Bantayan Island, four in Camotes Island, and the island municipality of President Carlos P. Garcia. Except for the Municipality of Bantayan in the island of Bantayan, all municipalities in the islands are either 4th or 5th class municipalities.
Bantayan Island, the Camotes Group of Islands and President Carlos P. Garcia Island have a diverse range of high quality natural and man-made attractions, which are the essentiaelements for ecotourism development. Its attractions include an extensive system of protected areas such as coral reefs, marine parks and mangrove forests; fine white sand beaches; covescaves; waterfalls, and; historical sites that could easily be packaged into viable tourism productsThe other plus factor in the development of ecotourism is the islands’ location in two of the fastest growing tourist destinations of the Philippines, namely: Cebu and Bohol. By priming themselves to become part of Cebu and Bohol’s ecotourism circuits, the three island groups can share in the increased economic benefits from tourism.
One of the challenges to the islands’ development is the protected area status of the islands. The islands are declared wilderness areas and mangrove swamp forest reserves. As such, development activities are restricted or limited in the islands, although this bodes well fothe environment. Another challenge is the difficulty of accessing the islands. Transportation and communication links with the mainland, within the islands, and even among the islets are nowell developed. There is also the absence of key tourism facilities in the islands.
The three ecotourism goals of the islands are: a) environmental protection, b) economic growth, and c) community and social development. The goal on environmental protection recognizes the importance of the islands’ natural resources and environment to the islands’ sustainability as well as to the development of the ecotourism industry. Policies, programs and projects that will preserve the natural resources of the islands will be pursued and promoted. The usage of the natural resources will also be managed in order to ensure sustainable sources of food, livelihood and recreation for the population for many generations. The goal on economic growth aims to develop the island’s tourism industry to become an important growth driver of the area’s economy, For the local citizens, ecotourism will become a significant source of jobs and additional and higher incomes to the people. Programs, activities, and projects that will be included under this goal will range from the identification of potential ecotourism sites and product development to investment promotions, marketing, institutions development and capability building.
The goal on community and social development aims to establish and foster partnership among the communities, the government, and the tourism industry in developing ecotourism. It involves skills training and building community capacity to be actively involved in ecotourism planning, and to ensure that communities directly benefit from ecotourism development.
The Island-wide Tourism Council in each island group will be responsible for the overall management and coordination of ecotourism activities in the island. The Council shall ascertain that all activities adhere for the greatest part to the framework set forth in the Central Visayas Isles Ecotourism Development Plan. Local Tourism Councils will also be established in the local government units to manage and implement specific LGU activities and projects.
Partnership with other entities, both government and the private sector, will be forged for the funding and implementation of identified activities, programs and projects. In the case of projects proposed for national government funding, the concerned national government agencies shall ensure that the projects are included in the respective agency’s investment programs as well as incorporated in the agency’s annual budget proposals. For projects proposed for local government funding including provincial government funding, the LGU shall ascertain that the projects are included in the concerned local government’s annual budgets.
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