Guidelines seek responsible marine wildlife tourism

MANILA -- The environment department's Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) is planning to finalize soon the guidelines on marine wildlife tourism (MWT) in the country.

The guidelines, drawn up in collaboration with the agriculture and tourism departments, aim to protect marine wildlife from tourism's adverse impact such as habitat destruction, BMB Wildlife Resources Division chief Josefina de Leon said.

"It's about being responsible wildlife tourists," she added.

De Leon said a joint administrative order of the environment, agriculture and tourism departments will spell out the guidelines.

According to Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, wildlife "means wild forms and varieties of flora and fauna, in all developmental stages, including those which are in captivity or are being bred or propagated."

Wildlife tourism is tourism that enables people to view wildlife in a natural setting.

De Leon said BMB hopes for issuance of the MWT guidelines soon as tourism continues to harm the country's marine wildlife.

"For example, turtles are caught and tied to some resorts so tourists there can swim with these animals," she said, adding that binding turtles is harmful to these animals from the wild.

Last year, the World Bank (WB) said the demand for all types of nature tourism -- particularly adventure tourism and wildlife tourism -- is predicted to expand rapidly over the next two decades.

The WB added that protecting and sustainably managing wildlife and its natural habitat will help promote the growth of nature-based tourism.

De Leon said there is already a draft MWT order prepared before Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu assumed his post.

"That draft was not acted upon so we're reviving it," she said, noting that discussions on the matter are in progress.

"We're reviewing the draft to see if it's sufficient," she noted.

If found sufficient, she said the BMB will endorse the draft to the environment department for its consideration and Cimatu's approval.

According to the Department of Tourism (DOT), Palawan province's Calauit Island and Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park, Bohol province and Sorsogon province's Donsol municipality are among the Philippines' top wildlife destinations.

Calauit Island's game preserve and wildlife sanctuary is "straight out of Africa" while marine biodiversity-rich Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park is the Philippines' first natural site to be inscribed on the World Heritage List, the DOT noted.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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