100 most “sustainable” destinations: River in Cebu on global list
Kristine B. Quintas (The Freeman) - September 28, 2016 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The Bojo River in the western town of Alo-guinsan has been recognized as among the 100 "sustainable" desti-nations in the world, joining the ranks of the Niagara Falls in Canada, Cape Town in South Africa, and Jackson Hole and Yellowstone of the United States.

The recognition, given by Green Destinations, is in line with the 36th World Tourism Day.

Joselito "Boboi" Costas, head of the Provincial Tourism Office and the province's consultant for ecotourism, said the awarding was held at the Castle of Ljubljana in Slovenia. The province, however, wasn't able to send representatives to the ceremony.

Bojo River is a small waterway about 1.4 kilometers in length. Lined with lush mangrove forest on each side, it starts from Aloguinsan – a town some 60 kilometers southwest of Cebu City – and empties into Tañon Strait between Cebu and Negros Island.

 Costas said making it to the Top 100 does not mean the destination is fully sustainable. Rather, it means efforts by the government and community are on the right track towards sustainability.   The Top 100 spots are destinations that cherish and celebrate their authenticity, their biodiversity and nature, their cultural values, the destination's local community and entrepreneurs, and their environment, for future generations of citizens and travelers.

 "Bojo is one of the top 100 destinations because of its sustainable practices. The first in the province and in the country," Costas said.

 "It has no price money but it's more that to us. It's a very efficient marketing tool. Once you are in the list you can use the logo that you are one of the top 100 destinations in the world. By that alone it is already a big promotion and marketing more than money can give us," he said.

Green Destinations received over 150 nominations, six of which from the Philippines, but only three made it to the final list, including Bojo River and Lake Sebu and Lake Holon, the latter two are in South Cotabato.

In the end, only Bojo River made it to the Top 100.

Bojo was nominated by the Society for Sustainable Tourism Development Incorporated, an international organization based in Palawan.   All nominations were evaluated by experts of Green Destinations and by members of the special Top 100 selection panel that includes over 60 tourism sustainability experts.

 The ratings reflected the destinations' performance in five areas: nature and scenery, environment and climate, culture and tradition, people and hospitality, and sustainable destination management. 

Costas said sustainable destination management is considered the most important and is measured through the destination's compliance to 15 core criteria of the Green Destinations. These include sustainability coordinator, tourism policy, nature protection, animal ethics, landscape and scenery, waste water treatment, solid waste reduction, reduction fossil fuel dependency, cultural heritage conservation, intangible heritage, protection of people, inhabitants involved in tourism, promoting local products, health and safety prevention and accessibility.

 He said the river is primarily managed by the town's fishermen, women and other villagers to promote ecotourism and protect the environment in Bojo, a river village that is situated two kilometers from the central point of Aloguinsan.

 The Top 100 is an initiative of Green Destinations and five other leaders in sustainable tourism, including TravelMole's Vision for Sustainable Tourism, Destination Stewardship Center,  Asian Ecotourism Network, Sustainable Travel International and QualityCost.   Green Destinations is a global partnership for responsible tourism, assisting destinations, regions and countries in improving quality sustainability and market.

 The 2016 Sustainable Destinations Top 100 is the follow up to National Geographic Traveler's Destination Stewardship surveys (2004-2010) and the 2014 Sustainable Destinations Global Top 100.

River visit

 Tourists who want to join the eco-tour may call 469-9042.

 The full tour package is P650 per head for a minimum of five people. This includes a welcome lei, welcome drinks, lunch along the Bojo River, snacks at The Farmhouse, handicraft demo, river cruise, and swimming.   Of this amount, P250 goes to the community.  Costas said they are aiming at replicating the template of Bojo to other towns and destinations in the province.

 "We have dwindling forests, limited water resources and growing population there is no other way to go but for sustainable tourism," he said.

Founded on June 14, 2009, Bojo Aloguinsan Ecotourism Association (BAETAS) is responsible for overseeing and protecting the Bojo River Nature Reserve that covers the 1.4-kilometer Bojo River and its riparian zone, which is home to over 60 bird species and native flora.

 Costas said a portion of the income from river cruises goes to a scholarship grant, regular maintenance and cleanup operations along the river, medical operations, annual feeding program for kids, and other community projects.

Also, the association is giving a chunk of the profit to the local government unit to help fund for street lighting and garbage management, among others.

 "When you talk about sustainable tourism it is about how you are spreading the benefits of tourism to the local community. Ni-trickle down in terms of education, health, livelihood, and everything. They are ploughing their income back to the community," he said.

 Also, the river cruise is not dependent on fossil fuel. Tourists are taken on a banca ride of along the winding stretch of the river, which has a carrying capacity of 60 people per day.

 The tour also highlights the town's cultural heritage like before you go on the tour, locals will conduct "palinaan" to cast away evil spirits as well demonstrating on mat weaving.

 All of these contributed to Bojo's placement in the Top 100.

 Other attractions in the town include Hermit's Cove where a hermit lived more than a hundred years ago and The Farmhouse, which offers organic produce. (FREEMAN)

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