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DOT going strong for ecotourism, conservation

Sunday, May 10, 2009
Preserving natural sites may prove a tricky task for a vibrant tourism industry willing and able to accommodate an increasing tourism influx.

For Secretary Ace Durano, however, striking the balance means continually promoting not only tourist activity, but responsible travel through dialogue, consistent training and active campaigns.

This May, the Department of Tourism (DOT), through the 9th Philippine Cave Congress in the island of Samar, aims to highlight the protection of natural sites to address the issues on cave conservation and promote eco-adventures in the region.

Sohoton National Bridge

Together with the Philippine Cave Guides Association, the Cave Congress is expected to lure more than 400 spelunking enthusiasts from the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia, along with the country’s premier caving organizations.

DOT firms up its stance on ecotourism and responsible travel as the Department continues to endorse projects such as the Cave Congress in Leyte.

Durano further said, “We are optimistic that this congress will promote sustainable ecotourism that will benefit the local community and provide long-term results, as well as bring about camaraderie among adventurers.”

Boasting of fascinating geological features, the Sohoton Natural Bridge National Park at Basey, Samar, is filled with caves, limestone boulders, rockholes, weathered formation rocks, and underground rivers.

Inside the Sohoton Cave

Durano added, “Our support in this event is our way of continually encouraging the conservation of landscapes, rock formations, cultural and national heritage; respecting the integrity of local cultures and avoiding negative impacts on social structures.”

The event will be held at the island of Samar, the third largest island in the country, and home not only to the largest cave, but also the largest karst formation in the Philippines.

“Our country is known for our rich natural resources that captivate tourists of different nationalities; it is but appropriate that Filipinos develop the same awe and appreciation, for then follows the responsiveness and concern,” Undersecretary for Tourism Planning and Promotions said.

Jarque added, “The spectacular natural bridge of Sohoton continues to generate interest among tourists. It is just fitting that this site becomes the focal point of the Cave Congress.”

Allan Cañizal, Director of Tourism Development Planning said, “The organizers took particular care in selecting the speakers and panelists for the congress; all are respected figures from the academe and experts in conservation.”

Included in the list are Prof. Elery Hamilton Smith from Australia, Chairman of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the World Commission on Protected Areas; Dave Smith, Biodiversity program manager, New Zealand’s Department of Conservation; and Pete Chandlier, owner of one of the most successful cave tourism outfits in New Zealand.

Tourism Regional Director Karina Rosa Tiopes noted, “The Department is supportive of this initiative as this would not only help showcase the natural beauty of the region, but more importantly, help preserve the natural attraction.”

Tiopes said that the region’s caves, particularly the Sohoton National Park, are enjoying a relative good number of visitors. For the past years, Sohoton has become the top attraction of the town of Basey. In 2008, over 2,000 tourists, both local and foreign, went to the National Park for the same period.