By Leandria Pagunsan
The Apo Island Protected Landscape and Seascape Protected Area Management Board under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has created a program towards effective coastal and fisheries resource management (CFRM) to achieve a sustainable environment in Apo Island.
DENR recently held the Apo Island Protected Landscape and Seascape (AIPLS) social marketing geared towards preserving and protecting the island’s natural resources focusing on behavior change for tour guides and tourists as well.
During the meeting facilitated by Theresa Quijano of DENR, she said there is a need to regulate tourists’ activities as the degraded condition of reefs in the island are attributed to tourists and boats stepping on the corals, increase in solid and liquid waste inputs, and the influx of tourists engaged in snorkeling which can cause damage to the reefs.
Quijano added that other factors contributing to the degraded condition of reefs are the improper disposal of single-use plastics and tourists getting close to the turtles.
Some dive guides in Apo Island present during the meeting explained that the problem also lies in the ”language barrier,” as they noted the challenges of communicating with tourists, especially Chinese nationals, resulting to tourists violating some rules and regulations.
Among the focused interventions agreed are to put up signboards in strategic places in the island clearly conveying policies which should be strictly enforced, such as: “No stepping on the corals”, “No touching of turtles”, and “No throwing of plastics.”
Another recommendation is to put up a photo booth for tourists showing a message of commitment: “I will not step on the corals.”
It was also noted that activities like capacitating tour guides to influence tourists to be more environment-friendly, expand turtle interaction areas, and introduce other eco-tourism activities such as trekking apart from snorkeling should be implemented.
Creating a mascot is also one of the strategies in marketing and promotion for Apo Island to be finalized and presented on August 9, 2019, based on the guidelines in choosing a flagship species, existing symbol or provincial species for the proposed mascot.