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SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Senator Cynthia Villar and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Wilma Eisma both expounded on the importance of protecting the environment to sustain the growth of the tourism industry in the country, as the three-day 2017 Subic Ecotourism Festival opened on June 2, 2017 at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center.
The two women leaders told festival participants that tourism cannot be sustained without caring for the environment, and that sustainable development needs commitment from the people.
“At the heart of sustainable tourism is protection of the environment,” Villar, a long-time advocate of environmental protection, declared during the event.
“Tourism without environmental preservation and protection is not sustainable,” she added, citing her project, the Las Piñas-Zapote River Rehabilitation Program, which gave birth to several livelihood projects where water lilies, plastics and other used materials that clogged rivers were turned into handicrafts pieces and even furniture.
“Today, we are focusing our efforts in establishing the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat, and the Las Piñas Wetland Park as eco-tourism destinations,” Villar also said.
Meanwhile, SBMA Administrator Eisma recalled how the more than 8,000 volunteers of the Subic Bay Freeport cleaned up and safeguarded the former Subic Naval Base after the US Navy left in 1992.
Calling them heroes of local ecotourism, Eisma said the volunteers showed their “malasakit” (caring) and “kusang-loob” (initiative) without being paid for their work, thus helping in transforming Subic into what it is today.
“Malasakit and kusang-loob are the benchmark of ecotourism. You put your foot forward without expecting any in return, because at the end of the day, this is your home,” she added.
Eisma also stressed the importance of being responsible tourists, and of being aware of the negative impacts that tourists may bring to the places they visit.
“We can enjoy the place, but please be responsible. Ecotourism is all about sustainability and responsibility is sustainability,” she added.
The 2017 Subic Ecotourism Festival was organized by Subic International School for Sustainable Tourism headed by Dr. Mina Gabor, in celebration of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
With the theme “Ecotourism Driving Sustainability: ASEAN and Beyond”, the event brought together sought-after speakers from the Global Ecotourism Network (GEN), including chairperson Glen Jampol, as well as experts from Asian Ecotourism Network (AEN) and other top tourism icons and specialists from all over the globe.
The speakers who come from USA, Costa Rica, Jordan, Thailand, Australia Japan and other Asian nations were scheduled to speak on such topics as general tourism, architecture, and ecotourism site development.
Participants are also set to visit ecotourism sites in Subic and the Green Grand Canyon in Pampanga on the last day of the festival.