Let me start with a little scenario.
Tomorrow, one family or barkada will take a trip to the mountain resort of Baguio and then the magnificent rice terraces where tourists will pick up native carvings by the mountain tribes and if they are lucky, some authentic image of rice gods.
They are doing what tourists have always done: taking in a little sightseeing, a little sunbathing, enjoying the local flavors.
Tourism has always been an activity of man. In fact, a Greek philosopher once advised: “The world is a book. If you have not traveled, you have only read page one.”
Boracay has gained much fame around the world for its unequalled beauty, a signature label, and idyllic tourist destination. It has received numerous accolades and awards. On the positive side, it has provided a lot of economic benefits to the area and to the country as well.
Lately, however, the downside of neglect and disregard for environmental needs has threatened the future of the island paradise. The timely intervention of the government arrested what could have been an irreversible trend for the island, and great difficulty in resuscitating an ailing facility.
The same situation is believed to be happening in other destination areas, such as Bohol, Palawan, and Baguio. For instance, in the mountain resort of Banaue, the condition of the rice terraces is not healthy. In all of these cases, our eyes have been opened to the incapacity of the Filipinos to manage and sustain such tourism treasures. The negative effect of tourism development is upon us, and we are hard pressed to fend of the gloom.
Primarily, tourism affects the environment, the degree of which rises in direct proportion to the volume of tourists. The destruction maybe in terms of damage to plant and animal life (biological), pollution of air and water, or in the destruction of the landscape through uncontrolled building and inappropriate infrastructures and superstructures.
At a conference on the social and economic impact of tourism on pacific communities, held sometimes in the 70’s, one conclusion was reached unanimously: “Tourism promises dreams but produces nightmares.” This impression was a result of the information and insights shared by developing countries about the problems attendant to tourism growth. Tourism can be disruptive when it reinforces the desire for socioeconomic aspirations that are not locally attainable. A look at Boracay and other tourism resorts reveal the cultural degradation of the locality. They have lost their native identity. The injection of the culture of an alien element has greatly influenced the concept of development, so much so that basic considerations that impact of long-term operations are ignored or unattended too, all in the name of the might tourism dollars.
Coupled with the greed of national and local officials, the effects are really disastrous. Boracay and the rest of the booming tourist spots showcase irresponsible governance and lack of control mechanisms to achieve sustainability.
In 2016, a successful businesswoman, a philanthropist, a corporate social responsibility advocate was awakened after being briefed on the situation of the Banaue Rice Terraces by Mayor Jerry Dalipog, municipal mayor of Banaue. Dr. Milagros How is a visionary, a distinguished alumni awardee of the University of the Philippines for Corporate Social Responsibility in 2017. A physical inspection of the area exposed the stark reality that if no one will start, the Philippines stands to lose a rich UNESCO heritage, one of the 7 wonders of the world.
Universal Harvester, Inc., a private corporation, initiated the project that will restore a portion of the rice terraces as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility efforts. The project is a joint partnership with the Banawe Municipality under the leadership of its mayor.
The initial area for development is about 30 hectares. This will be the model that will create spill-over effect into other areas in order to achieve development and restoration of about 500 hectares within the next 3 years.
Aside from the physical restoration, the project hopes to revive the sociocultural values of the populace that has nurtured the rice terraces for the last 2,000 years.
One major objective of the project is to enhance the tourism value.
With its restoration, corresponding development in physical infrastructure will follow, which will create a big demand for tourism-oriented facilities like accommodation, transport, attractions, etc.
It aims not only to improve the physical condition of the natural heritage but also protect the cultural identity of the destination and the locals, and develop the cultivation of rice terraces that will enhance livelihood. Banaue is a good example of destination development as it promotes restoration and sustainability by improving or rehabilitating Banaue Rice Terraces with the involvement of the important stakeholders: the host community and the host government.
Ensuring that the community is part of the said project is necessary because the host community and the host government are more knowledgeable about the place. Community, private, and government partnership will ensure that the interests of the stakeholders are addressed.
Banaue will try to avoid the moves or mistakes that have resulted in the deterioration of Boracay, and other destinations. The reasons affecting sustainability can be attributed to lack of governance, command and control, and leadership.
Governance has been delegated to the local government units (LGUs). The LGUs by the nature of limited terms of their officials, dictated by periodic elections, reveal an absence of vision that must be achieved and perpetuated towards a long-term goal. Complicating sustainability is the myopic mind-set of local officials who view their office as a reward to perpetuate political and economic power.
Command and control are based on political allocation and accommodation. Local government regulations are so dysfunctional, resulting in massive inefficiency. These are the major obstacles to sustainability. It also discourages empowerment of people who must be the architects and engineers of sustainable development.
Last March 8, the Banaue International Music Composition Competition was launched. Composers of symphonic music from all over the world are sure to experience an in-depth musical and cultural immersion program and create music inspired by the Banaue people’s musical heritage.
Through a creative musical endeavor, we hope to showcase the Banaue Rice Terraces and raise awareness for restoration and prevention of its cultural significance to the Filipino people.
The Banaue Rice Terraces restoration project holds a lot of promise. It rests upon a solid foundation of strong private-public partnership under the stewardship of Dr. Milagros O. How, president and CEO, Universal Harvester, Inc., Banaue Municipal Mayor Jerry Dalipog and the people of Banaue. It is hoped that Banaue will become a success story in sustainability. It will be anchored on a responsible, moral, and ethical leadership. These attributes are always found wanting in the implementation of our tourism program. Brig. Gen. Yogyog (Ret), a native of Banaue, supervises the project on sight.
We shall make the difference.
While tourism is not the job of a soldier, it is better done with the application of the essential attributes of military leadership.
The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the MAP.
Jaime S. de los Santos is a member of the MAP National Issues Committee, presently Professorial Lecturer of Management (Part-time) UP — Diliman, Project Coordinator, Banaue Rice Terraces Restoration Project.