Ecotourism and ocean preservation would be the centerpiece of the Department of Tourism in bolstering the country’s position as a freediving capital in the region.
“One of the big challenges for the Philippines to become a worldwide top freediving destination is to promote ocean preservation. People need to realize that the oceans are endangered and we need to protect them,” Philippine Freediving Ambassador Guillaume Néry said.
Néry is a staunch supporter of Campagne des Ecos Gestes and Antinea Foundation, which specialize in ocean conservation.
Among the highlights of the month-long Philippine freediving expedition of Néry was his stopover at El Nido, Palawan for the Sulubaaï Environmental Foundation Pangatalan Island project, a 4.2-hectare marine protected area surrounded by coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass meadows.
“It’s not just about consuming the place. It’s also about having an experience, of protecting and respecting every place we go to,” he said.
“We at the department are conscious of the need for sustainable practices and programs as we develop the freediving segment. Our own masterplan cites the need for the preservation of the environment and promotion of climate change adaptation,” DoT Undersecretary for Tourism Development Benito Bengzon Jr. said.
The DoT is working closely with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources—Biodiversity Management Bureau, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and National Economic and Development Authority among other government agencies in the full implementation of the National Ecotourism Strategy 2013-2022.
“Under the National Ecotourism Strategy, we are developing ecotourism sites, including marine sanctuaries accessible to divers and freedivers for low-density tourism activities,” Bengzon said.
Néry underscored the role of education in supporting ocean conservation while at the same time promoting freediving in the country.
“If the young generation is aware about the dangers and the problem, that will change the way we are interacting with nature,” he said.