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Home >> Go to the Regions >> Region III Central Luzon >> Resource Center >> Mt. Pinatubo Kabuhayan sa Turismo Project: A Strategy for Sustainable Development     

Mt. Pinatubo Kabuhayan sa Turismo Project: A Strategy for Sustainable Development

Department of Tourism
Region III

MT. PINATUBO ECOTOURISM “KABUHAYAN SA TURISMO” PROJECT: A STRATEGY FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

1. DESCRIPTION

The project’s domain known as Barangay Sta. Juliana is on the western side of the province of Tarlac – some 21 kilometers from the main highway (town market) of the town of Capas or some 129 kilometers north of Metro Manila. It is the farthest barangay west of the town of Capas. The village figured quite prominently during the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in June of 1991 when the precarious O’ Donnell river channel endangered the lives of its local populace. As a result of its position in the lahar flow pattern, the village hardly ever received any funding assistance from the local government and was de-prioritized from the list of infrastructure development projects of the province. Rampaging volcanic mudflow or lahar from Mt. Pinatubo is prone to overtop the riverbanks during rainy days, so they say. Local residents refused to believe the prognosis of the local government and geologists

The construction of a local school building that was started before the volcanic eruption was aborted immediately following the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. Even the construction of a road towards the village was stopped altogether including telecommunication system, among other projects.

Up till this time, the village remains intact while local residents continue to go about their normal daily routine bravely refusing to be disturbed by the adverse predictions of scientists. Agriculture is the main source of livelihood for the villagers. Others take to the silted river channel to gather pumice rocks for sale to lowland traders (for stone-washed jeans). The Aetas gather root crops for their subsistence.

Almost 10 years following the volcanic upheaval, Brgy. Sta. Juliana remains unperturbed and is in fact spared from the attacks of mudflows cascading from the volcano. Confident of their fortune, people started to rebuild their lives out of the debris spewed by the volcano, eking a living from volcanic debris and later on out of the remaining bounties from their farmlands. People began to gather volcanic rocks and stones for sale to traders from the town center. In spite of their newfound livelihood, hardly ever can people make both ends meet. Absence of farm-to-market roads and telecommunication made things more difficult.

Some 100 families (close to 500 people) belonging to the indigenous community of Aetas bore the brunt of the 1991 eruption. The eruption covered much of their agricultural lands. Now they are prone to seek government assistance for their survival. In the absence of government support, these nomadic tribes are bound to venture into the lowland (urban centers) to seek alms from motorists on busy street corners.

Sta. Juliana remains what it is – a crest-fallen community of farmers outpaced by current wave of modern infrastructure development.

2. INNOVATION/UNIQUENESS/CREATIVITY

It was in April 2000 when the barangay council of Sta. Juliana observed a growing influx of foreign and local tourists to the village. Reports showed that a stream of tourists come to visit the community on their way to the upper reaches of the O’ Donnell river channel and onto the crater of Mt. Pinatubo. True enough after a thorough investigation, the village was slowly beginning to be known as the gateway to the crater of Mt. Pinatubo – a convenient jump-off point for tourists.

But villagers simply took this sudden intrusion of visitors in stride. No one cared to understand what was in store for them. Villagers were simply unaware of the benefits that tourism can potentially offer them.

Thru the initiative of the Philippine Department of Tourism – Region III, the people in that community thought about the idea in June of the same year to establish the foundation through which the community could generate economic benefits from travel and tourism. Consultations were made with the officials of the village political organization including the members of the indigenous community.

The village council members were encouraged to organize themselves into a tourism council which they later called STA. JULIANA TOURISM COUNCIL, INC. The said body was organized with the assistance of the regional office of the Philippine Department of Tourism with membership from the community leaders. They were formed to handle the management and operation of the ecotourism project. Slowly, the members of the community begun to open their minds to the new world of tourism. In September of the same year the council requested the DOT-RIII for orientation seminars on general tourism, the natural environment and ecotourism. Subsequent training programs on mountain guiding including homestay program were introduced. People were made to realize the potential benefits of ecotourism, its implication to visitor education, community development and environmental protection and conservation.

3. VALUE OR IMPACT

On November 30, 2000 the Mt. Pinatubo “Kabuhayan sa Turismo” Ecotourism Project was launched with the “Mt. Pinatubo Millennium Trek” to the crater of the volcano (as the anchor attraction) where some 150 participants took part and contributed some P100,000 in donations to the community for their start-up funds. The annual trekking adventure was followed by the 2nd Mt. Pinatubo Trek held on January 30, 2001 where some 100 participants donated P104,000 to the community conservation fund. Soon, out of the funds collected, the old dilapidated barangay hall was converted into a new visitor assistance center with a photo museum of the 1991 eruption, a communication system was installed, and a multi-purpose center was built to accommodate the growing number of visitors. Even a local university (Holy Angel University) volunteered to help build social infrastructures such as donating 15 computer systems for the benefit of young students (Today, computer tutorial courses are offered to local residents for possible employment in the future). Directional signs were built along the path leading to the village. In the ensuing months additional toilet and shower facilities were built for the convenience of visitors. A performing arts group was organized among the indigenous people. An association of mountain guides and porters was formed. Homestay participants were readied to receive visitors into their homes. People took advantage of the visitor influx by offering their handicrafts and agricultural products for sale. Many more took advantage of the wellspring of economic opportunities. A local entrepreneur slowly converted his dilapidated sari-sari store into a mini-grocery after receiving economic windfall from tourism to the community.

Today, close to a year after the project inception, we see a host of improvements on the local community: a newly-built visitor assistance center complete with a front desk, information materials and a computer system, a photo exhibit of the trekking adventure, an ample supply of brochures and a display of souvenir items made of local indigenous materials. Additional toilet and baths were constructed to accommodate the growing number of visitors.

4. LOCAL SUPPORT AND COOPERATION

Recently, Congressman Jesli Lapus of the 3rd District of Tarlac donated some ONE MILLION PESOS (P1 Million) out of his countryside development fund for the construction of a world-class two-bedroom eco-lodge for the comfort and convenience of overnight crater-bound guests. Income derived from the facility will be funneled towards community development and environmental conservation.

5. LEADERSHIP, INTEREST AND AWARENESS

The ecotourism project in Sta. Juliana was meant to help build better quality of lives through travel and tourism with the crater of Mt. Pinatubo as the anchor attraction. The project envisions building support infrastructures for the benefit of local host population and tourists as well. Some 3,000 residents including some 500 indigenous people were targeted to be the potential beneficiaries of the project. This was done through a package of tourism strategies such as training programs (mountain guides, homestay, livelihood opportunities), community infrastructure projects (visitor assistance center, multi-purpose center, toilet and shower facilities, among others), and community organization (i.e. association of mountain guides and barangay tourism council).

6. PROBLEMS AND THEIR SOLUTIONS

Among the problems encountered include the following:

1. Reluctance of people to accept tourism as a source of livelihood. The people of Sta. Juliana were initially resistant to change. Before tourism was introduced to the community their lives evolved around their farmlands and the riverbed for agri products and volcanic debris. They initially resisted any effort to redirect their economic lives to other productive endeavors. When visitor influx became increasingly substantial, local residents began to realize the significance of travel and tourism. Now there are more than 100 families depending on tourism for their subsistence. Many more are beginning to register their interests.

2. Visitor interpretation was becoming more difficult due to a dearth of English-speaking guides. Nothing could be done about the predicament as over 90 percent of local residents are under educated (primary level). Very few could really express themselves in English, especially the Aetas. So the barangay tourism council made sure that visitors are provided pamphlets and brochures about how to get there, things to do and what to expect. This important information was also publicized through the media (print and broadcast) for a better understanding of the ecotourism project.

3. Local residents all aiming at tourism for livelihood. When local residents discovered the benefits of the project to the existing pool of resident beneficiaries, others begun to look at tourism as a source of economic rewards. However the supply-demand factor (economy of scale) would hardly allow any further increase in the number of guides and porters owing to the average number of visitors per month. And so the tourism council with the assistance of the tourism department initiated a move to make available a diverse opportunity for livelihood such as handicraft production, T-shirt printing and food technology. A project called Entrepreneurial Development in Rural Tourism (EDRT) was set into motion to enable local residents to harness their individual interests, skills and capabilities and engage in a small-scale enterprise of their own calling.

4. Potential feud between the indigenous people and the non-indigenous. The socio-cultural upbringing of indigenous people did not blend well with that of the non-indigenous ones as they both take on similar jobs as guides and porters. A conflicting battle ensued as more and more visitors flock to the village on a regular basis. The Aetas claim ownership over their ancestral land close to Pinatubo and so an exclusive right over the tourism project. Their counterparts in the lowland would not budge as they claim to be of the same cultural heritage thru inter-racial marriage. The tug-o-war ended when the tourism department and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) agreed to establish an alternate guiding schedule for them with income from conservation fees distributed between the two groups.

7. SUSTAINABILITY

The sustainability of the project was anchored on three dimensions: economic development for the host community, visitor satisfaction and environmental conservation. The project was meant to harness the potentials of ecotourism as a job generator, income level enhancement tool, a source of education for visitors and its capability to produce sustainable development for the environment. As visitor influx was becoming more significant a set of fees and charges was put in place: the community was to charge conservation fees (P20 per visitor) for the conservation projects of the community, guideship fees (P500 per day for every 5 visitors), homestay fees (P150 per room), ecolodge room rate at P200 per night per guest, user’s fees (P15 per visitor) for use of facilities (toilet and shower), certificates of conquest (P50 each) and postcards (P20 each).

8. MARKETABILITY

A set of conservation guidelines was also established to ensure the cleanliness and sanitation of the environment particularly the Pinatubo crater. This set of conservation guidelines was printed and distributed to visitors prior to their trekking activity. The local tourism council made sure that visitors are given briefing on the guidelines before proceeding to the crater. Each visitor is required to carry out his or her own garbage as a matter of policy. The more than 50 mountain guides and porters were commissioned to safeguard and enhance the integrity of the trail system, the crater and its environs. Monthly cleanup was scheduled. Visitors were enjoined to be part of the massive cleanliness program during the annual trek.

Until today, the Sta. Juliana Tourism Council handles the management and operation of the visitor assistance center including the reception of local and foreign guests. Regular donations (conservation, user’s, sale of items, etc.) from tourists are deposited are managed by the said council and utilized exclusively for the improvement of the local community and enhancement of services to tourists as well.

9. VISITOR ARRIVAL STATISTICS

As a result of a community-based sustainable development program, a continuing influx of tourists makes it to the community on a regular basis. Records indicate that some 1,000 local and foreign tourists visit the village during the trekking season (November to May) on a monthly basis or a total of 7,000 visitors. During the previous months of the year 2001, some 500 monthly visitors make it to the village in spite of the off-season trend. This year visitor arrivals numbered to about 1,700.

10. PROJECT FUNDING

Funding from the government was hardly ever available. The barangay tourism council with the help of some government agencies such as the tourism, trade and industry, national commission on indigenous peoples and science and technology sought the assistance of major stakeholders and tourism players in the local travel industry to start up the project. The November 30, 2000 Pinatubo trek project generated ample amount of funds to kick-start the project. Then the project became self-sustaining through fees and charges donated by local and foreign tourists. Through constant advocacy, tourists began to realize the importance of contributing part of their resources for the continuing development of the community as a major travel destination. It was recently gathered that tourists leave behind some P8,000 to P10,000 on a monthly basis. These funds are spent on infrastructure projects to better position the community as a sustainable tourism development project.

11. RESULTS ACHIEVED

Performance indicators were set to determine the success of the project. These were: income level of local host community, visitor satisfaction level and environmental conservation. In January 2001 the barangay tourism council conducted a community-wide survey of the impact of the project on their economic condition. Results indicate that local host residents (some 50 local guides and porters) receive an average of P3,000 – P4,000 in guide and porter fees every trekking month. The same survey also indicates a “Excellent” rating when visitors were asked about their trekking experience. The same rating of the scenery surrounding the volcano indicates a favorable feedback on the conservation efforts of local residents. Survey participants also expressed their satisfaction over the cleanliness of the tourist facilities and trail system.

Today we see a host of improvements within the local community: community-wide street-lighting project, renovation of two chapels (Methodist and Catholic), computer education for local residents (a computer training room with 15 computers was put in place), water supply and electrification of Aeta villages including the community elementary school, new set of uniforms for porters and guides including the members of the tourism council, among other improvements. A local cooperative was organized to handle the business of selling souvenir items while the association of guides and porters utilized their funds to produce their own sets of uniforms.

12. RECOGNITION/AWARDS/CITATION

The Pacific Asia Travel Association honored the members of Sta. Juliana Tourism Council, Inc. with a GOLD AWARD for its sustainable ecotourism/adventure-related project on April 9, 2001 during its 50th Golden Jubilee Ecotourism Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Secretary Richard Gordon received the award for and in behalf of Sta. Juliana. The Philippine Department of Tourism gave honor to the project with a Kalakbay Award for Best Ecotourism Product on December 7, 2001 in Malacanan Palace with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo handing the trophy to the council. On January 26, 2002, the ASEAN Tourism Association gave due recognition to the project with a Best Conservation Effort Award in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

The World Tourism Organization (WTO), on the other hand, gave honor to the local residents by incorporating the Sta. Juliana ectourism project in the COMPENDIUM OF BEST SUSTAINABLE TOURISM PRACTICES IN THE WORLD – an act that placed Sta. Juliana and Mt. Pinatubo in the world tourism map.

13. LESSONS LEARNED

It was easy to comprehend the fact that ideally ecotourism has the potential to bring economic benefits to the local host community especially in areas where tourism is strong enough to sustain its growth such as that of Mt. Pinatubo. The implementation stage was rather the most difficult aspect of the project. The initial stage was completed with less effort. But as money flowed into the coffers of the village, then the problems began to take its toll. Local residents wanted a piece of the cake. A leadership crisis endangered the fate of the project as more and more people wanted to take the lead in anticipation of the next political exercise. People began to take to task village officials for their seeming failure to spread the benefits to more people. And a lot more problems tended at first to disrupt the sustainability of the project.

It was only when the community begun organizing themselves into a local tourism council that problems started to dissipate. It was an organization that was far removed from political influence – a non-political entity entrusted to manage and operate the ecotourism activity. It is now registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

14. MONITORING ACTIVITIES

The Sta. Juliana Tourism Council, Inc. with the assistance of the government ensures the sustainability of the project. Conduct of a continuing survey of visitor experience was put in place. Survey forms are processed and results disseminated in due time for the information of local stakeholders and tourism players. The tourism regional office provides technical assistance on a regular basis. Problems and concerns are assessed and solved at the community level. If not, they are elevated to the municipal government for disposition.

“There is no Education Better than the Lessons of Travel.”

Prepared: May 2004

For further details, please contact:
Ronaldo Tiotuico
Regional Director
Department of Tourism – Region III (Central Luzon)
Paskuhan Village, City of San Fernando, Pampanga
Tel. Nos. (045) 961-2612 / 5617
Mobile (+63) (0) 919-427-8351
E-mail: [email protected]hoo.com
www.visitmyphilippines.com

 

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