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Teo reminded of PH’s tourism roadmap

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Teo reminded of PH’s tourism roadmap

12:02 AM June 28, 2017

The Haribon Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources Inc. and Pamana Ka Sa Pilipinas, the largest network of community-based managers of marine protected areas, condemn Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo’s public support for the building of the Coral World Park in Coron, Palawan. We oppose the building of any entertainment resort complex in Coron, or within any part of or near any protected area or nature reserve.

The construction activity itself and the resulting deluge of people to such a resort will have harmful effects on the surrounding environment, including the plethora of wastes resulting from tourism activities that not even the best protection and conservation measures can prevent or guard against.

If the project pushes through, the value of lost ecosystem services of Coron reefs would be around $36,794 per hectare every year (Costanza et al., 2014). This includes lost fishing opportunities for local fishers and storm protection, and the release of 268.8 tons of carbon stocks per hectare of deforested mangrove areas (Abino et al., 2014).

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This Nickelodeon and Coral World Park Undersea Resorts project will affect how corals settle and build a reef, thereby threatening tens of thousands of marine species sheltered by reefs. Needless to say, the construction will affect corals and other biodiversity that rely heavily on their tactile and aural sensory to navigate and settle on reefs.

The presence of Anacropora spinosa, an endemic coral, gives a concrete picture of the construction’s potential impacts. The Philippines has 29 of the 50 “evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered” coral reef species (including the elegance coral or Catalaphyllia jardinei), which are considered vulnerable by Philippine coral scientists and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Some of these are found in Coron.

These coastal habitats are feeding and nursery grounds for 1,881 coral reef associated fishes. At least two species of blennies (e.g., Ecsenius kurti and E. tricolor), a small tropical reef-dwelling fish, are found only in the Calamianes Island (including Coron) in the Philippines (Allen et al., 2003). The fact that “development” projects fail to consider the cost of evolutionary history that will be lost should these push through is devastating.

There are tourists who put more premium on natural and cultural heritage—the ideal for ecotourism. Consumers (read: tourists) who support ecotourism will normally expect and prefer the natural environment, not manmade or artificial structures, and therefore engage in increasingly popular activities such as hiking, river rafting, scuba diving and wildlife watching.

We invite Secretary Teo to read her office’s National Tourism Development Plan, which espouses a “highly competitive and environmentally and socially responsible tourism that delivers more widely distributed income.”

Haribon calls on Secretary Teo to consider the following:

1. Put the locals on top priority (i.e., governance): Consider local knowledge and opportunities for employment. Recognize the rights of affected indigenous groups (i.e., Tagbanua), including issues about ancestral domains and participation in decision-making processes.

2. Promote the management of natural habitats and ecological services (i.e., habitat management) to enhance biodiversity that benefits the entire community through healthy ecology, ecotourism and sustainable livelihood.

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3. Convert tourism investments into local conservation actions: The DOT should capitalize on the Philippines as a mega-
biodiverse country and the global center of marine biodiversity, by promoting appreciation of the natural environment in its natural state and underscoring its life-giving attributes.

HARIBON FOUNDATION FOR THE CONSERVATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES INC. and PAMANA KA SA PILIPINAS

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TAGS: Coral World Park, Coron, Inquirer letters, Inquirer Opinion, Pamana Ka Sa Pilipinas, Philippine tourism Haribon Foundation, Wanda Teo
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