In recent years, the Philippines keeps crossing my radar – and one interesting aspect is that it has been actively attempting to promote its green spaces and nature attractions to tourists. Just as in some of the more popular destinations around the world, South East Asia too has fallen prey to issues which have arisen from excessive and improper control of tourism. Philippines is one such country which has been drastically affected by this, for example, in places like Palawan and to a greater extent in Boracay.
Even though the country has its ecological problems when it comes to sustainable travel, it has managed to stay ahead of all its Southeast Asian neighbors. To help you in travelling around this scenic island archipelago, the guide below will highlight some of the most sustainable spots to visit. Not only this may improve your travel habits, but will also go a long way in making you a responsible visitor to the Philippines.
Go off the beaten path
The impact on the environment will always be higher in areas which are crowded, but of course there are many less crowded spots which are tranquil and offer scenic views, as long as you are willing to travel a bit further. Lesser known alternatives like the Santeria huts just outside El Nido or the laid-back town of Port Barton, on the eastern side of Palawan are a tropical paradise. Leyte is another lesser known place, and home to one of the most beautiful sandbars in the Philippines. These smaller locations have been able to contain visitors more sustainably than the neighboring, more popular islands.
Opt for eco-friendly accommodation
The development of any destination depends on the infrastructure in place, which includes hotels in a big way. With proper research, like on Simply Philippines, you can find tons of hotels which adhere to green norms, employ locals and give the community their just share. A range of camping sites and eco-friendly resorts like say, Qi Palawan, are to name a few. Another example is the Amorita resort in Bohol, which takes sustainability issues extremely seriously. This includes recycling their own waste and rewarding the staff for new sustainability initiatives.
Give preference to the local community
Whenever possible, money you spend in any foreign country should be ploughed back into the community rather than go into the pocket of rich businessmen. The ideal way to go about supporting local communities is by purchasing locally-made souvenirs, spending the night in hotels owned by locals and eating at the local restaurants. Hiring local guides and using local travel agencies such as Philippines Travel Package also contributes in a large way to the economic well-being of the community.
Shun plastic totally
One tiny bottle of plastic, no matter which part of the world you are in, will take more than a thousand years to decompose. Best to carry your own water bottle and refill it wherever possible, rather than go about buying mineral water all through the trip. Say no to plastic bags, straws and packets, especially on the smaller islands where disposal facilities are minimal.
If you feel leaving a minimal footprint isn’t enough, you can also consider joining a volunteer taskforce – these go out on a regular basis to do work like cleaning the beaches or coral reef rehab projects. You can find more information at the Philippines Department of Tourism official site.
Experience the culture and heritage
Visiting places of historical value and rich culture is the best way to encourage and ensure the survival of Filipino traditions – this also motivates the locals to protect them. A typical day out would include going to old homes, churches and museums, which hold the key to the past of whichever destination you choose to explore. If you have more time to spend, there are also ecotourism villages, where you can spend the night in cottages or camps and experience the local way of life.
Many people may not be aware of the fact that there is an acute shortage of electricity and water on most islands of the Philippines. In fact, leaving aside tourists, even the residents do not have enough resources for themselves. To address this grave situation, simple steps like switching off air-conditioning when not in use and avoiding any waste of water will help ease the problem.
Be environmentally friendly
While the flora and fauna may not be able to raise their voice, you certainly can! Do not intrude and interfere with animal habitat, and follow guidelines diligently. Say no to animal shows, and limit your interaction to shelters and rehabilitation centers only. If you see irresponsible activities taking place, do not hesitate to report the matter to the concerned authorities.
Sail between the islands
One of the best ways to see the beautiful islands of Philippines is by opting to cruise between, for example, El Nido and Coron in a traditional fishing boat. This tour allows visitors to stay on local islands and interact with the residents, without in any way making a negative impact on the environment.
Issues of economics and environmental inequality are of great magnitude all over the globe and not only in the Philippines. But remember that all is not lost. If everyone does their bit and start with the smallest of things, all of these problems have potential solutions – so think through this if you plan to visit the Philippines (or really, anywhere!) soon.