Tuguegarao City—Palaui Island has already earned two major distinctions—one as CNN Go’s best beaches in the world, and the other as the two-time location of American television series, “Survivor.”
A third came its way last week making the enchanting island, located in the northeastern tip of Luzon, one of the winners of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Community-Based Tourism Award for 2019-2021.
In a time when the government-ordered six-month shutdown and clean-up of world-famous Boracay has made global headlines, creating a model for reclaiming other tourism hot spots, such as El Nido and Coron from worsening environmental degradation, Palaui Island has emerged as a gem for sustainable tourism that “safeguards its socio-economic future.”
This was the verdict of jurors that selected Palaui Island’s major environmental group, the Palaui Environmental Protectors Association, for the award during the ASEAN Tourism Forum held January 18, 2019 in Halong City, Vietnam.
Declared a protected landscape and seascape in 1994 by Presidential Proclamation No. 447, Palaui is 1.25 kilometers offshore from Santa Ana and is part of the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport, which is managed and operated by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority.
“This ASEAN award makes Filipinos proud. This shows us the way forward toward sustainable tourism,” Secretary Raul L. Lambino, CEZA Administrator and CEO.
Lambino said tourism in Palaui Island—with its untouched beaches, waterfalls, rock formations, extensive forests, mangroves, and a 300-hectare marine sanctuary, among others—runs on community-based enterprises that are active in providing various services to visitors.
A letter to Lambino by Director Danilo B. Intong of the Department of Tourism Office of Tourism Standards and Regulation said the award recognizes associations in the region that “support sustainable livelihoods, protection of socio-cultural traditions, and natural and cultural heritage.”
CEZA has established microenterprises at the downstream end, creating what is viewed as a business model that steers away from the traps of uncontrolled tourism.
Community-based tourism provides island residents with strong economic incentive for “strengthened (environmental) protection.”
Since 2006, PEPA has trained locals such as fisherfolks, farmers, women and out-of-school youth in programs that arm them with skills to provide visitors with specific tourism-related services.
The major island activities are hiking through three trails that crisscross Palaui, and reef experience in five snorkeling areas identified by reef rangers.
Island residents are also trained in the art of traditional massage, preparation of local cuisine (the village kitchens), good hygiene, and production of island souvenirs from indigenous materials.
PEPA is currently headed by Gerry Iranga and operates a “nature village complex” where visitors can stay overnight in the campsite around the Bayanihan Hall.
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