G Spot

Tourism and Waste Matters

By Virginia Jasmin Pasalo

PANGASINAN has prepared a draft Provincial Tourism Development Framework Plan 2019-2025 which was presented to the members of the Provincial Tourism Development Planning Committee created under Executive Order 0068-2018. I am a member of this committee, but I was not able to attend this very important workshop held 27 May 2019.

The workshop “presented the working draft of the Plan, particularly with regards to the principles and directions of development it espouses, and the set of Programs, Projects, and Activities (PPAs) that it firmly considers would bring about the objectives that have been set for Tourism Development in the province.” The committee was tasked “to go over the plan and provide necessary corrections and input elements that reflect the roles and concerns” of particular sectors “that may have been overlooked or have become relevant to date.”

I was promised a soft copy of this plan, but I have not received any to date, so I would tackle one of the concerns I have initially wanted to take up, which may have already been diligently poured over by the members of the committee present in the meeting.

Tourism can mean many good things for the economy of a growing province, but it can also put a strain on already scarce resources such as energy, water, food and land. It can cause an increase in pollution and change in the topography of tourism sites due to the construction of support facilities for projects in target areas. Tourists can also violate the integrity of the environment without the proper ordinances and cultural orientation that guarantee proper behavior.

A critical concern in preserving the integrity of natural resources is to calculate how much waste (especially plastic waste) will be generated by tourism activities, taking into account the projected number of tourists in certain sites and providing local infrastructure, both physical and social, commensurate to the waste they are expected to generate. The choice of the projects should also be consistent with the framework of sustainability and ecological balance.

In a 2015 report, the Philippines was ranked as the “third largest source of discarded plastic that ends up in the ocean” by the Ocean Conservancy Charity and the McKinsey Centre for Business and Environment. The country generates “2.7 million tonnes of plastic waste annually and 20 per cent – or half a million tonnes – of that leaks into the oceans.” There is no specific study for the provinces, but it would be easy to calculate an estimate considering these figures vis-à-vis the 2019 population of the Philippines (108.11 million), and other available data that would enhance the accuracy of the projections at the local level to gain insights on the extent and impact of tourism activities on Pangasinan’s environment and natural resources.

Therefore, a tourism plan should be based on solid data to support initiatives which can mean: the construction of viable waste disposal systems, educating the population, orienting the tourists, formulating ordinances that encourage appropriate incentives for good business practices, tax incentives and profit-sharing schemes particularly with communities hosting the projects.

Lastly, since Pangasinan derives its essence from salt, which is derived from the West Philippine Sea, there must be a plan to monitor its shores so that plastic waste will not exacerbate the quality of the salt, which is already compromised worldwide.

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