Two Negros Occidental cities won top Green Destinations Story Awards for their sustainable tourism practices at the prestigious Internationale Tourismos-Borse (ITB) Berlin held in Messe Berlin, Germany, Tuesday night, March 7.
Sagay City won People’s Choice Award and 2nd Place in the Nature and Scenery Category for Mangrove Forest Protection through its Community-based EcoTourism Project.
Bago City won 3rd place in the Environment and Climate Category for its entry “Reviving the Majestic Diversity of Bago Watershed”.
Rep. Alfredo Marañon III (Neg. Occ., 2nd District) and Sagay Vice Mayor Leo Rafael Cueva received Sagay’s award for its entry that showcased the Sagay Marine Reserve, which suffered from massive destruction of coral reefs due to man’s abuse of the marine environment. However, marine conservation efforts were initiated in the 1970s, leading to a 32,000-hectare protected seascape.
City Tourism Officer Helen Arguelles-Cutillar said the community was identified as a priority site for sustainable tourism development inside the Sagay Marine Reserve due to its compelling natural assets, including old growth mangrove species and the presence of flying foxes.
But before the intervention, the community had negative perceptions about government programs due to stricter enforcement, but when eco-tourism was introduced as an alternative livelihood it resulted in a significant increase in awareness of biodiversity, she said.
The community became directly involved in the scientific counting of species in the mangrove forest and reported a high increase in flying foxes in the area this year.
The beauty of the destination was showcased in an international movie filmed on the island, the city said of its entry.
Bago City’s award was received by Mayor Nicholas Torres.
Its entry featured its effort in reviving the Bago watershed, which provides water to approximately 19,000 hectares of agricultural areas and more than 10,000 households for domestic and industrial water usage.
Yulo said that the watershed faced several issues, including degrading forest cover, increasing demand for water, flooding, inappropriate land use, water pollution, public apathy towards environmental conservation, and limited livelihood opportunities.
In response, the city government mobilized its resources and strengthened community involvement through an Integrated Ecosystem Management Approach to address these issues. This includes agroforestry, assisted natural regeneration, forest law enforcement and protection activities, and the regulation of quarry and mining activities, he said.
In a statement published on its Facebook page, the Tourism Promotions Board of the Philippines, congratulated the two cities for the big win that featured their inspirational sustainable tourism practices and efforts.
The Green Destinations Story Award was established in 2014 to celebrate and promote top 100 destinations with good practices and stories.
It is held during the Internationale Tourismus Börse (ITB), the world’s leading travel trade fair, where leaders and key stakeholders of the global tourism industry gather to conduct business meetings. The ITB Berlin annually gathers the participation of over 160,000 visitors, including 113,500 trade visitors and 10,000 exhibitors from over 180 countries.*