The Coron Initiative
Chit U. Juan (The Philippine Star) - July 14, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - So our turboprop plane finally lands in Busuanga airport, and we are driven to Coron town proper to meet the rest of the advocates assembled for the Green Leaders Forum. The two-day conference hopes to gather like-minded resort and lodge owners and operators, restaurant owners and tour guides to encourage green and sustainable development in this still relatively unspoilt island. 

The Green Leaders Forum had a first run last March, and will have another run in September, again in Coron.

Susan Santos de Cardenas, a green resort advocate, and her local partner Al Linsangan III of the Calamianes Cultural Conservation Network Inc.(CCCNI), a working NGO, arranged for us to visit the island of Coron, an ancestral domain of about 24,000 hectares awarded to the indigenous tribe, the Tagbanua.

A short boat ride from Coron City (it is pretty confusing to have a city on Busuanga island and a separate island with the same name) takes you to the beautiful, majestic limestone cliffs interspersed with mangroves and other kinds of vegetation.

They always post a sign in tourist spots: Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints. Sad to say, without proper briefing, tourists often forget that Coron is a sacred place to the Tagbanuas and that it is their home and sanctuary, and we are only visitors here. There are empty plastic bottles in the water, some empty foil wrappers, and the usual unwanted “footprints” left by irresponsible visitors.

Al Linsangan’s group has started to make strides in community development: four years ago the fishermen found fishing income to already be in decline, so they shifted to offering banca tours, going out three times a week and earning about P1,200 a week. Al organized them into a cooperative so they could go out six days a week, charge less, accept carpooling or boatpooling of tourists, and now they take home double their usual income. They also now own 15 boats and the project benefits 42 families.

Susan brought speakers with different areas of expertise: Caloy Libosada, an Asian Institute of Tourism director, birdwatcher and eco tourism practitioner, shared with the group that Palawan has about 100 endemic birds and millions of birdwatchers from around the world will find reason to visit Coron if only for this activity.

Eric Raymundo, an environmental practitioner, shared proven best practices in energy-saving for hotels and restaurants such as using used oil for candles and as furniture polish, solar energy for lamps, natural ventilation instead of airconditioning.

PJ Arañador shared his award-winning designs using bio-mimickry, influenced by nature and also taking into account the preservation of the culture of the indigenous peoples.

We hope that the stakeholders will be inspired by all this sharing and with a few more meetings, hopefully we will see some action happening to keep Coron as green as it can be, and as sustainable as when its first inhabitants were born.                                                            

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