Puerto Princesa International Airport now caters arrival of guests doing revenge travel in new normal. (PN file photo)

Biodiversity management should also be considered in the recovery of the tourism industry as revenge travel traffic increases under the new normal.

Marine and terrestrial experts both agree that tourist sites, particularly the small islands, should be ready for the influx of guests that could affect biodiversity.

Dr. Caroline Jaraula of the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) said some issues to look into are facilities, wastewater treatment, and carrying capacity of small islands. The influx of tourists could also result in an increased amount of trash.

“After the pandemic, meron tayong revenge travel. The next question is, are we even ready for this revenge travel, especially on the very small islands and tourist areas? Are we ready for this?”

Small islands usually offer island hopping, snorkeling, and swimming as part of the package, particularly in the pre-pandemic time. These activities involve human interaction with various marine species.

However, Jaraula raised concerns about whether the influx of guests could affect the behavior of marine species that were on a break during the height of the pandemic.

“We want everyone to be excited about tourism; we want to spread out the news that yes, ang ganda talaga ng environment natin—it’s really nice to realize this, but at the same time, we also have to prepare so that we can offer this experience safely and in a sustainable manner,” she said.

The marine expert also cited the urgency of addressing microplastics in COVID-19 personal protective equipment such as face masks and face shields in biodiversity conservation, especially in light of the pandemic.

In 2022, a total of 386 COVID-19-related PPE items were found in 83 percent of coastal sampling sites within an area of 48,200 square meters.

A study conducted by the Western Philippines University (WPU) GCRF Blue Communities Project Team revealed that facemasks were the primary type of PPE found along the eastern coast of the province, accounting for 98 percent, followed by face shields at two percent.

In the same year, another study measured the presence of microplastics in the beach sand of Puerto Princesa. Among the 21 sampling sites, the beach sand from 15 sites was found to be contaminated with microplastics.

The results revealed that the east coast of Puerto Princesa had a significantly higher abundance of microplastics compared to the west coast.

“As time moves on and they degrade, parami nang parami ang microplastics from different materials,” Jaraula said.

Aside from managing biodiversity, it is also important for guests to realize their roles in paying environmental fees, according to Dr. Aris Reginaldo of UP Baguio, College of Sciences.

It could be the tourists’ way to be participatory in waste management, particularly for poor communities managing tourism sites.

“Sa LGUs minsan hindi nagma-match yong management system and opening up their place for tourism. Especially mga bago—I saw medyo umaatras yong LGU to charge environmental fee, but I think kailangan i-legislate talaga yon,” he said.

Sajorne, Cayabo, Madarcos, Madarcos, Omar, Jr., Ardines, Sabtal, Mabuhay-Omar, Cheung, Creencia, & Bacosa. (2022). Occurrence of COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) litters along the eastern coast of Palawan Island, Philippines. www.sciencedirect.com. Retrieved June 21, 2023, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X22006166

Sajorne, R. E., B. Cayabo, G. D., A. Gajardo, L. J., Mabuhay-Omar, J. A., Creencia, L. A., & Bacosa, H. P. (2022, November 17). Disentangling Microplastic Pollution on Beach Sand of Puerto Princesa, Palawan Island, Philippines: Abundance and Characteristics. MDPI. https://doi.org/10.3390/su142215303

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.