Apo Island in Negros Oriental. | Photo courtesy of Tommy Schultz via DOT Philippines

The Department of Tourism is anticipating a gradual return of nature tourism through the current pandemic and has renewed its call for responsible behavior among travelers in interacting with wildlife.

In observance of World Environment Month this June, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat highlighted the importance of travelers teaching themselves on how to engage with marine species in a humane and sustainable approach.

“Observing marine wildlife in its natural habitat is incredibly fulfilling and quite an experience you cannot forget,” Puyat said in a statement sent to Palawan News on June 22.

“Respecting the ocean and its inhabitants must be the top priority of every tourist who wants to connect with marine wildlife. Learning how to properly engage with these species is a small but crucial step in protecting and sustaining our marine biodiversity,” Puyat added.

Puyat said that in the second half of the year, the Department of Tourism (DOT) will conduct a number of awareness seminars for stakeholders to educate people on sustainable and responsible marine tourism standards, especially given that local tourism is picking up in coastal regions.

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The DOT, in collaboration with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Agriculture (DA), and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), issued Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2020 – 01 on Rules and Regulations that Govern the Conduct of Marine Wildlife Tourism Interaction in the Philippines last year (DILG).

The memorandum guidelines cover the creation of zones in marine tourist destinations (No Approach Zones, Interaction Zones, and Waiting Zones), the Code of Conduct for people and sea vessels within the zones, Prohibited Acts within Dedicated Interaction Sites, specific regulations per type of marine activity, and the lead agencies’ responsibilities in compliance monitoring and enforcement.

She said the circular was designed to ensure that tourism interactions do not adversely affect the behaviour and habitat of marine wildlife, particularly large marine vertebrates such as “dugong”, cetaceans (dolphins, whales, and porpoises), whale sharks, other sharks, manta rays, and marine turtles.

Future plans in the memorandum also include identifying, accrediting, and recognizing marine wildlife tourism sites in the country that are dedicated and compliant with the regulations. These highlight how collaboration between public and private institutions is beneficial for preserving the Philippines’ natural resources.

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is the chief of correspondents of Palawan News. She covers defense, politics, tourism, health, and sports stories. She loves to travel and explore different foods.