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Mt. Pinatubo: Case Study on Poverty Reduction Through Tourism

Republic of the Philippines
Department of Tourism
Region III

(Entry to the World Tourism Organization Compendium of Best Tourism Practices)

1. Name, description and location of the project or initiative:

Name of Project:


Location of the Project:

Brgy. Sta. Juliana, Capas, Tarlac, Philippines

Description and Background of the Project:

The location of the project known as Sta. Juliana village 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 streambed called O’ Donnell river channel endangered the lives of its local populace. On account of its precarious position on the lahar flow pattern, government volcanologists and disaster coordinating officials sounded the alarm for all residents to vacate the endangered community. As a consequence of these warning signals, the village hardly ever received any social and economic assistance from the local and national government and was subsequently de-prioritized from the list of infrastructure development projects of the province. Rampaging volcanic mudflow from Mt. Pinatubo is prone to overtop the riverbanks during rainy days, so they say.

In fact the construction of a local school building that was started the previous years 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.

Almost 11 years following the volcanic upheaval, the tiny village of 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.

The poverty-stricken community of about 3,000 people is populated by about a thousand native inhabitants known as Aetas – an indigenous population that used to live close to the hills of Mt. Pinatubo where resides a deity they call “Apo Namalyari”, the Great Protector and Provider and home to spirits of their ancestors.

These native inhabitants bore the brunt of the 1991 eruption. It covered much of their agricultural lands - rendering them useless for farming. 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.

It was in April 2000 when the Department of Tourism – Region III took notice of a sudden influx of foreign and local tourists to the village. Reports showed that visitors to the community brave the hot mid-day sun to trek the upper reaches of the O’ Donnell river channel and onto the crater of Mt. Pinatubo. The village was indeed on its way to becoming popular as the gateway to the crater of Mt. Pinatubo – a convenient jump-off point for tourists.

Villagers dismissed the unexpected intrusion of visitors as being an ordinary turn of events.

Thru the initiative of the Philippine Department of Tourism – Region III, however, people started considering the idea of establishing 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 that they later called STA. JULIANA TOURISM COUNCIL, INC. The said body was organized with membership coming from the community leaders and elders of the indigenous community. They were formed to later on handle the management and operation of the ecotourism project. In September of the same year the tourism regional office started conducting orientation seminars on general tourism, its benefits to local host community including the strategies of ecotourism in general. Subsequent training programs on mountain guiding techniques 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.

2. Main results obtained with regard to poverty:

2.1 Why do you consider this project to have contributed to reduce poverty in your country/region/area?

Since its inception in 1999, the project was able to provide residents a range of social and economic opportunities on account of their unique position and image as the gateway to the Mt. Pinatubo crater. From a mere farming community dependent on the soil for sustenance, people started looking up to tourism as their alternate source of economic livelihood. The realization was evident with the first advent of a bunch of tourists that first flocked to their village. Some 20 guides were initially hired to bring them to the crater with each one receiving their first taste of the economic bounty from tourism.

2.2 Quantitative results demonstrating the results of your project (income generated for the local community, local jobs created, other):

Some 100 local Aeta families or a total of 500 residents received direct economic benefits from the project (A reserve pool of 50 natives are on standby in case more guides and porters are needed). The influx of tourists to their community created a host of livelihood opportunities such as the services of guides, porters and mountain rangers. An average of 700 – 1,000 visitors make it to the village on a monthly basis each one required by the project proponent to secure the services of guides or porters. An informal survey following the launching of the project showed an average monthly income of PhP3,000 (US$60) for guides and porters alone. The community on the other hand receives on the average some PhP10,000 (US$200) a month in conservation fees (each tourist pays PhP20 as part of his contribution to local conservation projects). An additional monthly collection of at least PhP2,000 (US$40) is generated from donations, user fees on toilet and baths, among others. An accommodation facility built for tourism by a local Congressman (Hon. Jesli Lapus) earns an average of PhP3,000 (US$60) a month from tourists that stay overnight at the village. A host of housewives joined the project as homestay participants to overnight tourists. A bed and breakfast arrangement was instituted for the convenience of visitors. Reports indicate they each earn about PhP1,000 (US$20) a month in room accommodation with breakfast.

2.3 Medium/long-term economic profitability of the project:

The project is expected to reap social and economic benefits for local residents in the long term period inasmuch as Mt. Pinatubo has become popular throughout the world. Influx of tourists though slowly on the downtrend due to security and safety reasons following worldwide crisis is still steadily keeping the local economy alive and well. This year, based on current trends, level of visitor arrivals would still be maintained at 500-700 visitors a month.

2.4 Estimated number of people and % of the population directly or indirectly benefited by the project:

Informal survey of project beneficiaries showed a total of 900 local host residents or about 30% of the total population of 3,000 people enjoy the social and economic benefits of tourism. An example is the case of a mini-store that sells a variety of convenience items that grew to become a small grocery a year after the inception of the project. A year later additional stores were built or existing once developed further to accommodate dining tourists. At a certain time a store selling motorcycle parts and items like motor oil and fuel rose from nowhere to cater to the growing needs of some 20 for-hire tricycles (motorcycles with small car attached to them) that were kept busy transporting tourists to the village. A group of thirty (30) handicraft or souvenir makers were made to undergo training by the tourism department under the Entrepreneurial Development for rural Tourism or EDRT Program. Now turned into a cooperative, the group sells hot items like native bow and arrow, flutes, preserved butterflies, bamboo-made fans and placemats.

2.5 Describe the relations/conventions/agreements/problems/solutions that arose with the local communities in the initial phases of the project:

To ensure the social acceptability and subsequent sustainability of the project, a series of activities were undertaken starting with regular seminars and workshops on tourism awareness to keep local residents aware of the benefits of tourism on the quality of their lives. Later on the project proponent established the foundation for a better working relationship with the native inhabitants in the community. A memorandum of agreement was signed by and between the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (that government agency in charge of the welfare of cultural communities in the Philippines), the regional tribal association of the province of Tarlac and the tourism regional office (DOT-RIII). The agreement stipulates the consensus of all concerned to permit the government to implement the project and for all native Aetas to be the principal beneficiaries of the project.

Among the problems and solutions encountered during the project execution were 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.

2.6 What other economic activities parallel to the project have emerged or were received as a result of the tourism activity, for example, the production and sale of agricultural products, handicrafts, accommodation, transport, guides, other?

Since the time the project was implemented, the principal livelihood of the Aetas was serving as guides and porters for foreign and local visitors. A range of corollary economic activities took a life of its own following influx of visitors to the community. These tourism-related activities include production of souvenirs for tourists like Pinatubo souvenir T-shirts and sale of native bow and arrow, homestay program, introduction of the 1st Mt. Pinatubo Adventure Challenge (a multi-sport ecotourism activity) in December 2002 to bring more tourists to Pinatubo, the annual Mt. Pinatubo Trek (4th activity in 2002), as well as the annual gift-giving and medical and dental missions of NGOs, Philippine Airforce and some outdoor adventure corporate groups. A group that call themselves the Angeles City Four Wheelers Club banded together to ensure the availability of all-weather all –terrain vehicles for the use of visitors to the crater.

As part of the social development of poverty-stricken communities in rural areas, a number of institutions volunteered to contribute part of their resources to the village. For example, a local university (Holy Angel University in nearby Angeles City) donated fifteen (15) computers to the local public elementary school, Holiday Inn Resort Clark Field gave away some uniforms for the guides and porters including used benches for the convenience of visitors, a local travel group (Association of Travel Agencies of Pampanga) donated cash for the installation of sign boards and directional signages leading to the village while a contingent of Philippine Air Force personnel provided security service for trekking visitors. Some well-meaning businessmen and politicians provided the materials for the community water supply project (artesian wells).

Even a national telecommunication service provider (Smart Communications) offered to provide satellite cellular and fixed phones at the visitor assistance center for the use of tourists during their 4-hour trip to the crater (ordinary cellular phones are inoperable along the way to the crater).

In terms of infrastructure, the tourism department provided funding for the construction of a PhP10-Million (US$200,000) road project at the village. The project aims to facilitate travel to the host community.

2.7 Describe the resources available in the local communities: construction labour, local materials, handicrafts, consumables, etc. that were used and/or are currently being used for the operation of the project:

The local community provided the principal resources for the project: local manpower for the convenience of visitors (e.g. guides, porters, homestay, souvenir makers, etc.). Also available within the community are resources like bamboo materials for making native souvenir items, native root crops, households providing convenience items for visitors like bottled water, first-aid pills, shades and towels.

2.8 Describe the social benefits obtained for the community thanks to the project, for example, the creation of schools, infrastructure, communications, hospitals, water supply, other:

The road project which is the biggest project ever received by the local community shortened travel time to the market. This benefit when translated into monetary terms means big savings for local commuters. Jeepneys and tricycles for hire have reduced their fare by 10% as a result of the convenience of a new well-paved road. The computer donation paved the way for the institutionalization of a computer literacy program both for the in-school elementary pupils as well as the out-of-school youth. Some of the out-of-school graduates have sought and found jobs in a nearby urban community. The telecommunication facility provided local residents a wealth of opportunities which otherwise could have been non-existent without such.

The water supply project provided by various NGOs and revenues from the operation of the project as well gave local residents the much-needed requirement for their subsistence.

3. Sustainability of the project: Are there future plans/strategies to ensure the project’s sustainability?

The level of sustainability of the project depends primarily on the level of support that the local host community provides and will do so in the future. During the latter stage of project implementation, the project proponent created the so-called Sta. Juliana Tourism Council, Inc. – a non-profit non-stock corporation composed of active residents and their families with a vision for the future of their community. The members of the council are currently serving as the administrators of the project making sure that all is well in the operation of their ecotourism program. The plan is to make the council completely independent from government support thru continuing training and cooperative development. Once their independence is assured, project proponent aims to look at other potential sites in rural communities for its own income-generating program.

4. General information on the affected community:

4.1 Estimated number and % of the population in the geographic area where the
project is being carried:

The local host community of Sta. Juliana with a population of 3,000 belongs to a larger municipality (Tarlac) that comprises a total of 24 villages with over 100,000 total population. It is the most remote community among all the villages in that municipality.

4.2 General level of education and previous experience of the population in the tourism sector:

Based on surveys conducted by the local government, some 45 percent (80%) of 3,000 local residents completed high-school level of education (most of them hardly ever reach college) while the rest finished elementary education. Students opt to stay away from college due to economic difficulties and absence of infrastructure like good roads and transportation. Tourism awareness was completely unknown to the residents prior to the introduction of the project. It took the proponent some three months to make them aware of the social and economic impacts of tourism on their lives.

4.3 Main economic activity carried out in the area:

The main economic activity being carried out by the local community involves the promotion and marketing of Mt. Pinatubo as the best ecotourism destination in this part of the region. For a tourist to fulfill his mission to reach the world-famous volcano peak, he has to travel the length and breadth of the treacherous O’ Donnell river channel on board a 4 x 4 vehicle, take a 2 ½ hour walk to the crater and back. The long strenuous hike is awarded with a majestic view of the 2.5 kilometer wide crater lake.

4.4 Other income-generating economic alternatives available to the community, for example, agriculture, fishing, livestock farming, handicrafts, other:

The local community is blessed with a range of available resources to make their lives more productive. Native residents take to farming during the rainy months of May to November. They turn to ecotourism during the dry months of November to May. As an added-value to their traditional farming activities, residents found new source of livelihood in extracting rocks from streambeds which are sold to local jeans manufacturers in Manila. These rocks are used in producing faded jeans.

5. Local employees in the project:

5.1 Indicate how many local workers the project has. Please differentiate between temporary and permanent workers:

Most of the workers in the tourism project are volunteers and as such receive no regular remuneration from the project nor from the proponent. At least 15 volunteers are regularly “employed” at the visitor assistance center taking turns in handling the day-today affairs of the tourist information counter like receiving visitors, logging in and out, as well as conducting short briefing for visitors. Added to this are the more than 100 contractual workers who serve as guides, porters, mountain rangers, homestay and security officers. They are paid by the kind and amount of service rendered for visitors.

5.2 Average salary of the workers in US dollars:

The average monthly salary or remuneration that each worker receives has been pegged at US$60 – 70 depending on the level of visitor arrivals. Guides and porters are the main beneficiaries of the project and are paid directly by tourists themselves.

5.3 Training provided to the local population in order to work in the tourism sector:

Various training programs were conducted before the launching of the project. At the initial stage of the project, proponent conducted seminars and workshops on tourism awareness including case studies on the benefits of the activity on the host community. A series of trainings on basic mountain guiding techniques was held to hone their skills on the techniques of mountain trekking, their duties and responsibilities, precautionary measures in emergency situations, among others. Also conducted was the Entrepreneurial Development for Rural Tourism (EDRT) which opens the minds of local residents to the economic benefits of doing business for tourism. The program included workshops on producing souvenirs made from native materials like bamboo as well as printing T-shirts as a souvenir. A short course on the formation of a cooperative was held in preparation for the creation of a tourism association.

5.4 Degree of responsibility attained by the workers:

During the initial stage, workers were made to undergo an understudy program under the supervision of personnel from the tourism department. Later in the day, these same workers were left on their own with only a minimum supervision. Today, the tourism department visits the site on a weekly basis to monitor progress at work. Administrative and financial reports are submitted to the proponent on a regular basis.

5.5 Additional social benefits, for example, medical insurance, free schooling, other:

The local community thru the project earned its rightful place in the local tourism map as it now belongs to an elite selection of major ecotourism sites throughout the country as provided for in the National Ecotourism Strategy. The receipt of two (2) major international awards and one (1) national award gave the community the honor and prestige it deserves for achieving the goal of a self-reliant and independent host to a tourist destination called Mt. Pinatubo.

6. Origin of the project:

6.1 Whose initiative was it to initiate this project (local entrepreneurs, local stakeholders, central government, local government, local or foreign NGO, other?

The project was initially introduced to the community by the Department of Tourism – Region III (Central Luzon) with the support of tourism stakeholders and practitioners like the association of travel agencies, Holiday Inn Resort Clark, a local university, other government agencies like trade and science and technology including Congress as well as tour operators involved in adventure travel.

6.2 Did the initiator of the project have previous experience in the tourism sector?

The head of the project initiator (tourism department) underwent a one-month training on Income-Generating Activities in Rural Areas in Israel during the entire month of May 1999. The training gave him the inspiration to initiate a project that involves income-generating activities that would benefit local host residents. Sta. Jualiana village became the pilot project.

6.3 Type of support received:

From the national or local government:

Initial support from the national government was in the form of capacity-building and skills enhancement program although during the final phase of the project, the national government came into the picture by providing funds for road construction worth US$200,000 as well as the construction of a lodging facility worth US$20,000.

From the NGOs:

Material support such as cash assistance for building infrastructures like basketball courts, sign boards, uniforms and benches.

From financial institutions: None

From foreign cooperation: None

6.4 Are there plans to transfer the responsibilities/ownership/management of the project from its initial promoters to the local communities?

The plan is for the local community to start operating the project on their own by the year 2003. Minimal supervision is needed to keep the project going on.

6.5 Future prospects of the project after the end of the external cooperation or support of any kind:

The project will certainly grow to become the model community for all ecotourism development activities in rural areas. A project module has already been developed for other ecotourism sites to adopt on a need basis.

6.6 Support received from the government both national and regional, legislative, economic assistance, infrastructure, other:

The project was meant to be a model for a self-reliant and self-sustaining activity that generates a life of its own for the welfare of the members of the community. As such, support from the government is quite minimal and in many cases incidental to the activities undertaken by the project proponent such as the construction of a visitor assistance center that received financial support from the regional office including provision for uniforms for the guides and porters.

6.7 Do you know of any plans of the national/regional government for tourism development in the least advantaged area? If so, please describe:

There is now a plan for the regional office to replicate the same project in other places of interest such as the Mt. Arayat National Park in Pampanga, the Pantabangan Dam in Nueva Ecija as well as the coastal tourism project in Bulacan.

6.8. Support received from other associations both in terms of financing and in terms of capacity building, NGOs, international bodies, other:

The Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines, Inc. at the early stage of the project offered to help the project proponent in conducting skills training programs for would-be guides and porters.

7. Tour Operators:

7.1. Inbound tour operators: What are the terms established between the project and the tour operators?

Inbound tour operators in nearby provinces including Manila offer to support the promotion of Mt. Pinatubo as a major tourist destination with the aim to provide livelihood for the host community. In turn the project proponent offers to provide logistical support thru provision of vehicles and services of guides and porters.

7.1.1 What role do they play in the marketing of the project?

Tour operators play a major role in the promotion of the ecotourism activity in areas close to the volcano. Most of them have incorporated the Pinatubo tour program in their own marketing program all these years.

7.1.2 Do they carry out actions to benefit local communities?

Tour operators continue to support the project by factoring in the fees and charges that the local community imposes on tourists which in effect helps in the rehabilitation and conservation effort. They likewise handle at their end the pertinent rules and procedures governing visits to the crater. This agreement remains to be the biggest factor that keeps the project operating.

7.2 Outbound tour operators: What are the established terms?

Outbound tour operators hardly ever play a role in the development of the project.

7.2.1 What role do they play in the marketing of the project? None

8. Visitor information:

8.1 Average stay:

Visit to the crater takes a day or so depending on the resources and time available. At least 90% of visitors take the day-long trip while only 10% prefer to stay overnight on the slopes of the volcano.

8.2 Main countries of origin, including the country of the project:

Most of the visitors come from Europe like Germany, Switzerland and England. They make up some 10% of visitors to the area. Most of visitors are Filipinos coming from Metro Manila and nearby provinces (90%).

8.3 Average expenditure on non-prebooked services: consumption of local products, purchase of handicrafts, transport, guides, other:

Most tourists spend an average of PhP1,250 for a one-day trip. This includes use of a 4x4 vehicle, services of a guide and porter, meals and conservation fee. The amount is doubled for an overnight trip.

8.4 Seasonality and measures adopted to reduce it:

The trekking season starts in November and ends in the month of May when the rainy season begins. Due to dangers poised by mud flows and avalanche, the project proponent issues travel advisories to the traveling public against trekking to the Pinatubo area. It is also during this no-trekking season when the Aetas take to farming as their main source of livelihood. This arrangement enables them to survive all year-round.


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